The Trail Of Diplomacy

A Documentary History of the Guyana-Venezuela Border Issue
by Odeen Ishmael
© Copyright 1998

PART TWO — American Intervention

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The Intervention of the United States


When the Venezuelans proposed arbitration of the border dispute in 1877, they appealed to the United States to support their claims. However, the United States, during that period, refused to become involved. Venezuela, itself, never diverted from its view that arbitration was the only means of settling the border dispute, but continued to insist that the Essequibo River was the territorial boundary.

Diplomatic exchanges continued for the next ten between the two countries, but no solution to the problem could be reached. But tensions escalated in February 1887, after the British Government again rejected Venezuela's claim to the disputed area and demands to evacuate the territory. Venezuela then accused Great Britain of "acts of spoliation" and broke off diplomatic relations. Nevertheless, Venezuela continued to maintain a Consulate in Georgetown, British Guiana, while the British Government's interests in Venezuela were handled by the German legation in Caracas.

During 1890 and 1893, negotiations were initiated by the Venezuelan Government for the renewal of diplomatic relations and a settlement of the boundary dispute. However, they failed to have any successful result because of the persistence of the Venezuelan negotiators in asserting the claim of Venezuela to all territory as far as the Essequibo River or its immediate vicinity.


Despite the United States' refusal to be involved in the issue in 1877, that country's policy had by 1885 begun to take a decisive turn when the Grover Cleveland administration indicated its interest in the matter by offering advice to the British Government to solve the issue. By this time, the United States had achieved great economic strength and international political stature, and many leading American politicians viewed their country as a major competitor to Great Britain in the field of international politics. The Secretary of State, Thomas Bayard, in 1885 expressed the interest of the United States in helping to bring about a solution, but he was not too pleased over the British response to the American overtures. In a note addressed to Edward Phelps, the American Minister Plenipotentiary in London, he stated "that if it should appear that the British claim had no fixed limit, the friendly desire of the United States to assist in finding a solution would be predestined to failure, that a deep feeling of regret would take its place."

The administration of President Benjamin Harrison (1888-1892) was concerned over the suspension in 1887 of diplomatic relations between Venezuela and Great Britain. In February, 1888, Bayard, in a note to Phelps said that it would be a matter for grave consideration if it should appear that no bounds were being placed upon the British territorial claims. Apparently, Bayard felt that the British expanded claims were a stumbling block to the re-establishment of diplomatic relations between Venezuela and Great Britain.

Subsequently, efforts were made in 1890 by the Secretary of State James Blaine to heal the rift. He suggested to both Great Britain and Venezuela that they should hold of an informal conference involving a representative of each country, along with a representative of the United States, to cordially discuss the pending difficulties. Blaine hoped that this would enable them to arrive at a final settlement, and allow the two Governments to renew their friendly relations.

While Venezuela was willing to participate in such a conference, Great Britain felt that such a conference was not possible until Venezuela put a halt to its claims of dominion over lands owned and occupied by the British in the Colony of British Guiana.

Shortly after Blaine made his proposal, Robert Todd Lincoln, the United States Minister in London, obtained from Lord Salisbury a formal declaration describing all the country to the east of the Schomburgk line as unequivocally British. Lincoln had relayed Blaine's proposal to Salisbury who replied that, while he was ready to agree to an arbitration commission, he must insist that the only subject to be decided by such a commission should be the ownership of the territory west of the Schomburgk line. This was a practical suggestion since the British regarded themselves as entitled to portions of the territory not allotted to Great Britain by Schomburgk. In fact, the British actions in the past decade were consistent with this view, since British settlement was steadily advanced westward, occupying the country and establishing posts. A police station was established at Cuyuni Mine, at the confluence of the Yuruari and Cuyuni Rivers, not far from the gold mines of El Callao, the new El Dorado.

Continued efforts by the United States to get the two countries to negotiate a settlement brought no result throughout 1891, and on 9 December 1891, President Harrison, in his annual State of the Union message to the US Congress was obliged to report:

"I should have been glad to announce some favorable disposition of the boundary dispute between Great Britain and Venezuela touching the western frontier of British Guiana, but the friendly efforts of the United States in that direction have thus far been unavailing. This Government will continue to express its concern at any appearance of foreign encroachment on territories long under the administrative control of American States. The determination of a disputed boundary is easily attainable by amicable arbitration where the rights of the respective parties rest, as here, on historic facts readily ascertainable."

By this time, President Grover Cleveland's second administration was already being lobbied by Venezuelan supporters to take Venezuela's side in the dispute. But the administration was more interested in helping both countries to re-establish diplomatic relations, and this feeling was reflected in a letter from the Secretary of State Walter Gresham to Thomas Bayard, the American Ambassador in London, on the 13 July 1894:

"The President is inspired by a desire for a peaceable and honorable settlement of existing difficulties between an American state and a powerful transatlantic nation, and would be glad to see the re-establishment of such diplomatic relations between them as would promote that end.

"I can discern but two equitable solutions of the present controversy. One is the determination of the rights of the disputants as the respective successors to the historical rights of Holland and Spain over the region in question. The other is to create a new boundary line in accordance with the dictates of mutual expediency and consideration. The two Governments having so far been unable to agree on a conventional line, the consistent and conspicuous advocacy by the United States and England of the principle of arbitration and their recourse thereto in settlement important questions arising between them, makes such a mode of adjustment equally appropriate in the present instance, and this Government will gladly do what it can to further a determination in that sense. . ."

This position was re-emphasised by President Cleveland in his annual message to Congress on the 3 December 1894 when he also openly supported arbitration of the dispute, a position championed by Venezuela. He stated:

"The boundary of British Guiana still remains in dispute between Great Britain and Venezuela. Believing that its early settlement on some just basis alike honorable to both parties is in the line of our established policy to remove from this hemisphere all causes of difference with powers beyond the sea, I shall renew the efforts heretofore made to bring about a restoration of diplomatic relations between the disputants and to induce a reference to arbitration - a resort which Great Britain so conspicuously favors in principle and respects in practice and which is earnestly sought by her weaker adversary."

This declaration was followed on 21 February 1895 by a joint resolution of the United States Congress in support of arbitration. The resolution stated:

"Whereas, In the present enlightened age of the world, when international disputes in general, and more particularly those pertaining to boundary, are in constant process of adjustment by joint commission or by outside arbitration; and

"Whereas, Since the existing boundary dispute in Guiana between Great Britain and Venezuela ought not to constitute an exception to the general rule, but should more naturally come within the scope and range of modern international precedent and practice, in that it turns exclusively upon simple and readily ascertainable historical facts; and

"Whereas, Since it would be extremely gratifying to all peace-loving peoples, and particularly to the impartial friends of both parties, to see this long-standing and disquieting boundary dispute in Guiana adjusted in a manner just and honorable alike to both, to the end that possible international complications be avoided and American public law and traditions maintained; therefore,

"Be It resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives, that the President's suggestion, made in his last annual message to this body - namely, that Great Britain and Venezuela refer their dispute as to boundary limits in Guiana to friendly arbitration - be most earnestly recommended to the favorable consideration at both parties in interest."


The Venezuelan Government was highly pleased with President Cleveland's statement in December 1894 and the Congress resolution. This feeling was reflected on 29 March 1895 when Venezuela's President Crespo sent the following message to his nation's Congress:

"The high powers of the United States have just given on the occasion of the pending question between Venezuela and England a proof of the extent to which the principle of human justice prevails in the spirit of the great northern people. The Chief Magistrate of that powerful Republic, being persuaded at the peril which involves the American interests in the prolongation of a conflict of so grievous a nature, expressed in his annual message to Congress a strong wish and the disposition of inducing Great Britain to put an end to the dispute through the arbitration earnestly proposed by Venezuela.

"The American Congress in February last, as a consequence of the wise advice contained in President Cleveland's annual message, passed a resolution to this effect which has been inserted in the preliminary edition of the Yellow Book of this year. The terms of this resolution disclose the noblest interest in having this long controversy settled in conformity with the principles of justice and reason. Therein it is earnestly recommended that the two contending parties adopt the course indicated by the President of the United States in order peacefully to settle the dispute, as has been suggested by Venezuela.

"The legislative act referred to was approved by both the branches of the American Congress, and his Excellency President Cleveland affixed his seal thereto February 21. Such tokens of the spirit of justice with which the overshadowing question at the Guiana boundary is studied and considered by the Chief Magistrate and legislators of the great Republic of the north requires from Venezuela a significant act of special gratitude which only you can sanction so as to interpret the thought of the whole republic. I am sure that this idea will have the most enthusiastic acceptance in the hearts of the worthy legislators of my country."

Both branches of Venezuelan Congress immediately adopted a joint resolution expressing their hearty appreciation of the friendly interest shown by the American people in their dispute with Great Britain.


While these acts of diplomacy were taking place, a significant incident had developed in the disputed border area. During November 1894, several Venezuelans were engaged in cutting wood on the right bank of the Cuyuni River and Inspector Douglas Barnes of the British Guiana police force in the area ordered them away. However, they refused to leave, claiming that they were on Venezuelan soil. Barnes informed them that if they remained after a certain date they would be expelled. But again, the Venezuelan refused to comply, and Barnes and the other policeman forcibly expelled them to the other side of the river.

Soon after, a group of Venezuelan soldiers went over to the Guianese police station, pulled down the British flag, and arrested Barnes and several of his men. They were taken to Upata, in the State of Bolivar, where they were met by Venezuelan military officials from Caracas who promptly released the Englishmen with profuse apologies and took the soldiers into custody.

The Venezuelan Government immediately made a formal disavowal of the arrest of the policemen and instituted military proceedings against all the Venezuelan soldiers directly or indirectly responsible for the affair, including the head of the company in that district, Captain Dominguez, who was demoted, but later escaped from the country before his trial.

Later, Inspector Barnes claimed that his house, located next to the police station, was entered by the Venezuelans and some of its contents stolen. On a request by the Venezuelan authorities, he made an estimate of the losses at about 300 bolivars, equal to about $60. This amount was promptly paid to him, for which he gave a receipt as full compensation.

After Inspector Barnes reported this incident to his superior officers in Georgetown, the British Government demanded an explanation from the Venezuelan Government, through the German Minister in Caracas who represented British interests in the country since the suspension of diplomatic relations.

This issue continued to simmer throughout 1895 as the British authorities carried out plans to strengthen the defences in the border region. The Secretary of State for the Colonies, Joseph Chamberlain, on 7 September 1895, sent instructions to Sir C. Cameron Lees, Governor of British Guiana, directing him to obtain without delay a vote from the colonial Legislature for the purchase of two Maxim guns, one of them to be stationed at Uruan or elsewhere on the frontier where the Venezuelans may attempt to cross.

Shortly after, the colonial Government demanded, as indemnity for its national injury, the payment of damages which were magnified to enormous amounts. The New York Times on 11 December 1895 reported that Venezuela's President Crespo said that the British policemen would be compensated and that the Venezuelan officer who was responsible for the attack would be punished for exceeding his duty. But the President was of the view that the demand for compensation by Great Britain was distinct from the boundary question. At the same time, he felt that he could see no reason why Great Britain should intervene in a matter that concerned Venezuela and British Guiana alone.

By early 1896, (according to a report published in The New York Times of 22 March 1896), in view of the changing aspect of the boundary dispute, the claim dwindled to $5,000, and Venezuela was preparing to pay this amount, with the distinct understanding that it should not affect the title to the territory upon which the arrest occurred.


In other related developments in British Guiana, the acting Governor of British Guiana, acting upon instructions from the British Government during the first week in November 1895, declared to the British Guiana Legislature that unless Venezuela withdrew its claims to the greater part of the territory in dispute, the British Government was prepared to assert the rights of British Guiana by force of arms. Subsequently, the Legislature approved funds expenses for colonial and imperial forces.

The vote was passed unanimously, and the Attorney General, on behalf of the Government, said that the vote would be most gratifying to the British Government, as it showed that, while they were prepared to act resolutely in this matter, the colony was also prepared to be equally resolute.

As part of the military alert, there was increased activity in Georgetown with the colonial forces being regularly drilled, and the military police corps having frequent rifle practice. The acting Governor and other officials also visited North West District while inspectors were sent to Uruan to check on the situation.

Then on 5 December 1895, British Guiana's leading businessmen met in Georgetown and formed a company to develop lands in the border region - regarded by Venezuela as disputed territory. They asked the Government for a concession about 5,000 square miles of Crown lands lying north of the Cuyuni River and lying almost wholly west of the original Schomburgk line. They undertook within two years to hand over to the Government $500,000 to be used in building roads and bridges to the coast, while they would maintain a working capital of $750,000. Over 15,000 shares were taken in the colony, and the company was fully organised with the expectation that more shares would be purchased by businesses in Great Britain.

The meeting also learned form one of its main organisers that the British Secretary of State for the Colonies, Joseph Chamberlain, was fully supportive of giving large concessions for such forms of development.


There were behind-the-scenes activities which prompted the United States to declare its support for Venezuela. William L. Scruggs, the former American Consul in Caracas, who had been recalled by the Cleveland administration in 1893, was recruited by the Venezuelan Government to operate on its behalf in Washington D.C. as a propagandist and legal consul. Shortly after his recruitment, Scruggs published a booklet entitled British Aggression in Venezuela, or the Monroe Doctrine on Trial. This booklet attacked what he termed as British aggression and claimed that the Venezuelans were anxious to arbitrate over the border dispute. Scruggs also claimed that British policies in the disputed territory violated the Monroe Doctrine of 1823.

Eventually, he managed to persuade Leonidas Livingston, a Congressman from Georgia, to introduce the February resolution passed in the United States Congress urging a settlement by arbitration.

Also, by the beginning of 1895, President Cleveland has already realised that his administration was losing popularity especially among western and southern farmers and workers everywhere in the country. In July, Secretary of State Gresham died, and to succeed him, Cleveland transferred Richard Olney from the Department of Justice to the take up the post. To divert attention from the domestic problems that faced the country, both Cleveland and Olney decided to adopt a vigorous foreign policy. They, therefore, decided, inter alia, to openly support the Venezuelan side in the boundary dispute with Great Britain.

This Congress resolution and the subsequent statement by Richard Olney in July of the same year (see below), gave the Venezuelans what they desired since 1877 - full United States intervention in favour of Venezuela.


With Cleveland's approval, Olney prepared a statement of the case on the 20 July 1895, and the American Ambassador in Great Britain, Thomas Bayard, was instructed to present it to the British Government. In this statement, Olney protested against the enlargement of British Guiana at the expense and defiance of Venezuela, thus assuming, without any specific proof, that the British had already violated the Monroe doctrine of 1823 which had declared that "the American continents by the free and independent condition which they have assumed and maintain, are henceforth not to be considered as subjects for future colonization by any European powers". Olney stated, with no justification, that the Monroe doctrine had the full status of international law. He next proceeded to define the position of the United States of America on the border dispute:

"The United States is practically sovereign on this continent, and its fiat is law upon the subjects to which it confines its interposition. Why? It is not because of the pure friendship or good-will felt for it. It is not simply by reason of its high character as a civilized state, nor because wisdom and justice and equity are the invariable characteristics of the dealings of the United States. It is because, in addition to other grounds, its infinite resources, combined with its isolated position, render it master of the situation and practically invulnerable as against any or all other powers. . .

"Being entitled to resent and resist any sequestration of Venezuelan soil by Great Britain, it is necessarily entitled to know whether such sequestration has occurred or is now going on. (Unless the British Government should consent to submit the entire matter to arbitration) the transaction will be regarded as injurious to the interests of the people of the United States as well as oppressive in itself. . . The honour and welfare of this country are closely identified (with the Monroe doctrine)."

According to the American historian, Ralph Volney Harlow, writing in his book, The United States, (published in 1949), Olney's statement was a device for playing upon the emotions of the American people rather than an attempt to formulate the points at issue. He added that the assumption that Great Britain was occupying Venezuelan soil was lacking in any support except the unsubstantiated claims of Venezuela. Further, even Olney's theory that the Monroe doctrine applied to disagreements over boundary lines was refuted by American authorities, while the view that the doctrine was law had no basis in either history or law.


Olney had asked for a reply from the British Government before the United States Congress convened on the 3 December 1895, but by that time the response had not yet arrived. On the same day President Cleveland, in his annual message to the US Congress, referred to Olney's letter to the British Government:

"It being apparent that the boundary dispute between Great Britain and the Republic of Venezuela concerning the limits of British Guiana was approaching an acute stage, a definite statement of the interest and policy of the United States as regards the controversy seemed to be required both on its own account and in view of its relations with the friendly powers directly concerned. In July last, therefore, a dispatch was addressed to our ambassador at London for communication to the British Government in which the attitude of the United States was fully and distinctly set forth. The general conclusions therein reached and formulated are in substance that the traditional and established policy of this Government is firmly opposed to a forcible increase by any European power of its territorial possessions on this continent; that this policy is as well rounded in principle as it is strongly supported by numerous precedents; that as a consequence the United States is bound to protest against the enlargement of the area of British Guiana in derogation of the rights and against the will of Venezuela; that considering the disparity in strength of Great Britain and Venezuela the territorial dispute between them can be reasonably settled only by friendly and impartial arbitration, and that the resort to such arbitration should include the whole controversy, and is not satisfied if one of the powers concerned is permitted to draw an arbitrary line through the territory in debate and to declare that it will submit to arbitration only the portion lying on one side of it. In view of these conclusions, the dispatch in question called upon the British Government for a definite answer to the question whether it would or would not submit the territorial controversy between itself and Venezuela in its entirety to impartial arbitration. The answer of the British Government has not yet been received, but is expected shortly, when further communication on the subject will probably be made to the Congress."

Four days later, on the 7 December, the British reply to Olney's letter was finally received by the United States Government.

The British Government's reply, issued by the Prime Minister, Lord Salisbury on the 26 November, was sent in two dispatches to the British Ambassador in Washington Sir Julian Pauncefote. It countered Olney's contentions, and denied that the Monroe doctrine was applicable to the border dispute. Referring to the demand for arbitration, Salisbury declared that the only parties competent to decide whether or not it was "a suitable method of procedure . . . are the two parties whose rival contentions are in issue. The claim of a third nation, which is unaffected by the controversy, to impose this particular procedure on either of the two others, cannot be reasonably justified and has no foundation on the law of nations."

Salisbury made it plain that the British Government did not accept the Monroe doctrine which embodied no principle of international law which was "founded on the general consent of nations." He added that "no statesman, however eminent, and no nation, however powerful, are competent to insert into the code of international law a novel principle which was never recognised before and which has not since been accepted by the Government of any other country."

The British Prime Minister declared that his Government was "not prepared to admit that the interests of the United States are necessarily concerned in every frontier dispute which may arise between any two of the states who possess dominions in the Western Hemisphere." He also insisted that his Government could not consent to arbitrate the British claim to any of the territory east of the Schomburgk Line. The British Government, he concluded, "cannot consent to entertain, nor to submit to the arbitration of any power or of foreign jurists, however eminent, claims based on the extravagant pretensions of Spanish officials in the last century, and involving the transfer of large numbers of British subjects, who for many years enjoyed the settled rule of a British Colony, to a nation of a different race and language. . ."


Cleveland and Olney felt that the British reply was unacceptable, so on the 17 December 1895 the President sent the following special message to the United States Congress in which he dealt with the British reply:

In my special message addressed to the Congress on the 3rd instant I called attention to the pending boundary controversy between Great Britain and the Republic of Venezuela and recited the substance of a representation made by the Government to Her Britannic Majesty's Government suggesting reasons why such dispute should be submitted to arbitration for settlement and inquiring whether it would be so submitted.

The answer of the British Government, which was then awaited, has since been received, and, together with the despatch to which it is a reply, is hereto appended.

Such reply is embodied in two communications addressed by the British Prime Minister to Sir Julian Pauncefote, the British ambassador at this capital. It will be seen that one of these communications is devoted exclusively to observations upon the Monroe doctrine, and claims that in the present instance a new and strange extension and development of this doctrine is insisted on by the United States; that the reasons justifying an appeal to the doctrine enunciated by President Monroe are generally inapplicable "to the state of things in which we live at the present day," and especially inapplicable to the controversy involving the boundary line between Great Britain and Venezuela.

Without attempting extended argument in reply to these positions, it may not be amiss to suggest that the doctrine upon which we stand is strong and sound, because its enforcement is important to our peace and safety as a nation and is essential to the integrity of our free institutions and the tranquil maintenance of our distinctive form of government. It was intended to apply to every stage of our national life and can not become obsolete while our republic endures. If the balance of power is justly a cause for jealous anxiety among the Governments of the Old World, and a subject for our absolute noninterference, none the less is an observance of the Monroe doctrine of vital concern to our people and their Government.

Assuming, therefore, that we may properly insist upon this doctrine without regard to "the state of things in which we live" or any changed conditions here or elsewhere, it is not apparent why its application may not be invoked in the present controversy.

If a European power by an extension of its boundaries takes possession of the territory of one of our neighboring Republics against its will and in derogation of its rights, it is difficult to see why to that extent such European power does not thereby attempt to extend its system of government to that portion of this continent which is thus taken. This is the precise action which President Monroe declared to be "dangerous to our peace and safety," and it can make no difference whether the European system is extended by an advance of frontier or otherwise.

It also suggested in the British reply that we should not seek to apply the Monroe doctrine to the pending dispute because it does not embody any principle of international law which "is founded on the general consent of nations," and that "no statesman, however eminent, and no nation, however powerful, are competent to insert into the code of international law a novel principle which was never recognized before and which has not since been accepted by the government of any other country."

Practically, the principle for which we contend has peculiar, if not exclusive, relation to the United States. It may not have been admitted in so many words to the code of international law, but since in international councils every nation is entitled to the rights belonging to it, if the enforcement of the Monroe doctrine is something we may justly claim, it has its place in the code of international law as certainly and as securely as if it were specifically mentioned; and when the United States is a suitor before the high tribunal that administers international law, the question to be determined is whether or not we present claims which the justice of that code of law can find to be right and valid.

The Monroe doctrine finds its recognition in those principles of international law which are based upon the theory that every nation shall have its rights protected and its just claims enforced.

Of course this Government is entirely confident that under the section of this doctrine we have clear rights and undoubted claims. Nor is this ignored in the British reply. The Prime Minister, while not admitting that the Monroe doctrine is applicable to present conditions, states:

"In declaring that the United States would resist any such enterprise if it was contemplated, President Monroe adopted a policy which received the entire sympathy of the English Government at that date."

He further declares:

"Though the language of President Monroe is directed to the attainment of objects which most Englishmen would agree to be salutary, it is impossible to admit that they have been inscribed by any adequate authority in the code of international law."

Again he says:

"They (Her Majesty's Government) fully concur with the view which President Monroe apparently entertained, that any disturbance of the existing territorial distribution in that hemisphere by any fresh acquisitions on the part of any European State would be a highly inexpedient change."

In the belief that the doctrine for which we contend was clear and definite, that it was founded upon substantial considerations and involved our safety and welfare, that it was fully applicable to our present conditions and to the state of the world's progress, and that it was directly related to the pending controversy, and without any conviction as to the final merits of the dispute, but anxious to learn in a satisfactory and conclusive manner whether Great Britain sought under a claim of boundary to extend her possessions on this continent without right, or whether she merely sought possession of territory fairly included within her lines of ownership, this Government proposed to the Government of Great Britain a resort to arbitration as a proper means of settling the question, to the end that a vexatious boundary dispute between the two contestants might be determined and our exact standing and relation in respect to the controversy might be made clear.

It will be seen from the correspondence herewith submitted that this proposition has been declined by the British Government upon grounds which in the circumstances seem to me to be far from satisfactory. It is deeply disappointing that such an appeal, actuated by the most friendly feelings toward both nations directly concerned, addressed to the sense of justice and to the magnanimity of one of the great powers of the world, and touching its relations to one comparatively weak and small, should have produced no better results.

The course to be pursued by this Government in view of the present condition does not appear to admit of serious doubt. Having labored faithfully for many years to induce Great Britain to submit this dispute to impartial arbitration, and having been now finally apprised of her refusal to do so, nothing remains but to accept the situation, to recognize its plain requirements, and deal with it accordingly. Great Britain's present proposition has never thus far been regarded as admissible by Venezuela, though any adjustment to the boundary which that country may deem for her advantage and may enter into of her own free will can not of course be objected to by the United States.

Assuming, however, that the attitude of Venezuela will remain unchanged, the dispute has reached such a stage as to make it now incumbent upon the United States to take measures to determine with sufficient certainty for its justification what is the true divisional line between the Republic of Venezuela and British Guiana. The inquiry to that end should of course be conducted carefully and judicially, and due weight should be given to all available evidence, records, and facts in support of the claims of both parties.

In order that such an examination should be prosecuted in a thorough and satisfactory manner, I suggest that the Congress make an adequate appropriation for the expense of a commission, to be appointed by the Executive, who shall make the necessary investigation and report on the matter with the least possible delay. When such report is made and accepted it will, in my opinion, be the duty of the United States to resist by every means in its power, as a wilful aggression upon its rights and interests, the appropriation by Great Britain of any lands or the exercise of governmental jurisdiction over any territory which after investigation we have determined of right belongs to Venezuela.

In making these recommendations I am fully alive to the responsibility incurred and keenly realize all the consequences that may follow.

I am, nevertheless, firm in my conviction that while it is a grievous thing to contemplate the two great English-speaking peoples of the world as being otherwise than friendly competitors in the onward march of civilization and strenuous and worthy rivals in all the arts of peace, there is no calamity which a great nation can invite which equals that which follows a supine submission to wrong and injustice and the consequent loss of national self-respect and honor, beneath which are shielded and defended a people's safety and greatness.


It was clear that Cleveland's statement was a direct threat of war with Great Britain if the British did not comply with the Venezuelan demands now openly championed by the United States. Actually, almost immediately after his statement to the United States Congress, American military forces were put on combat alert in case war should break out with Great Britain.

The effect of Cleveland's bellicose statement reverberated all over the United States. In some quarters there were expressions of enthusiasm for war on the British, while at the same time imperialist sentiments were expressed. General public opinion was thus manipulated to turn in support of Cleveland, and on the 18 December 1895, Congress voted 100,000 dollars for the United States Commission on Boundary Between Venezuela and British Guiana (which was to be formally established on the 1 January 1896).

President Cleveland, undoubtedly, scored political mileage with his special message to Congress. The New York Times on the 18 December stated:

"Never before, following a public utterance by President Cleveland or any other recent President, have the words of a message been received with such prompt and cordial approval.

"Men who have been seeking little occasions as a ground for criticism of the Administration, forgot their dissatisfaction in commendation of the resolute opinions expressed by the President, and unhesitatingly declared that every American citizen would stand to the last extremity in support of a policy so manfully and righteously asserted for the American people."

In a separate article, the same issue of the newspaper revealed that the War Department, assuming a possibility of its activity in the event of hostilities, gave full support to Cleveland's statement. However, the article revealed that the United States was "in no condition to carry on a conflict with a naval power so opulent in strategic equipment and so determined and intelligent in modern warfare as England must be. . ."

Nevertheless, The New York Times on the 19 December 1895 claimed that "the majority (of army and naval officers) were not sanguine of success, but shared the confidence which is easily assumed by Americans when the capability of the country to cope with a foreign enemy is in question. . ."

The editorial of the same paper, also on the 19 December, in an appeal to Americans, stated:

"No American who has a soul within him capable of rising above the consideration of the markets will waver for an instant in his loyal support for the President and the House in the position they have taken in respect to the Venezuelan boundary. . ."

Even the President's political rivals were caught up in the spreading of the war hysteria. One of the leaders of the Republican Party, Theodore Roosevelt, who had just left the US Civil Service Commission to become New York City's police commissioner, wrote to his friend Massachusetts Republican legislator, Henry Cabot Lodge, then in his first term in the Senate, that he did not care whether America's coastal cities were bombarded or not, since the United States would have an opportunity of seizing Canada. Roosevelt added that he hoped the fight would come soon since he was convinced that the United States needed a war.

Indeed, in the United States, the expectancy of hostilities against Great Britain was so great that the Irish National Alliance, a strong anti-British organization representing Americans of Irish ancestry, revealed that it would supply one hundred thousand volunteers for the war.

But there were also strong expressions of opposition to Cleveland's statement. Scores of newspapers printed scathing criticisms of the President's policy over the Venezuela-British Guiana border dispute saying that it was extreme and provocative. Even in Government circles there came opposition. Governor John P. Atgeld of Illinois, according to The New York Times of the 19 December, stated:

"This message is a loud cry to Congress to help the Administration let go of a tiger's tail and shows that the Administration is looking for a hole in the fence to creep through in order to get out of the field in which it has been doing some grunting and a little rout. . ."

The administration expected total public support for its position, but this did not happen. Many newspapers, traditionally anti-British and pro-expansion, were stunned by the possibility of an actual war with Great Britain. Joseph Pulitzer's New York World denounced Cleveland's statement as a terrible blunder and called for a peaceful end to the conflict. The Springfield Republican wrote that while it supported a stiff attitude towards the British, it could never agree to the President's position in asserting in advance that the findings of the Commission must be given military support by the United States. And the Nation expressed the view that Cleveland had received "the most unanimous and crushing rebuke that the pulpit of this country ever addressed to a President."

The American historian, Allan Nevins, in his book, Grover Cleveland, (written in 1932), stated that Governor Russel of Massachusetts wrote Cleveland stating that "public opinion here is extremely strong and earnest in favour of a peaceful solution of the difficulty."

John Basset Moore, regarded during the period of the Cleveland administration as the leading authority on international law, wrote a strongly-worded letter of protest to William L. Wilson, the Chairman of the Ways and Means Committee of the US Congress. Nevins, in his book, quoted part of Moore's letter that Wilson later turned over to Cleveland:

". . . The whole system of arbitration presupposes that nations will be reasonable in their claims. The claim of Venezuela to all territory west of the Essequibo is not a scrupulous claim. The talk of Dutch usurpations is but an admission of Dutch title.

"Instead of asserting that arbitration is the only satisfactory way of settling the question, I should say that it would be a very unsatisfactory way of attempting it; and in so saying I do not forget that Lord Granville once consented to lump boundary and all other questions in a general arbitration. We have arbitrated boundary disputes and so has Great Britain, but never, so far as I am informed, where a line has not previously been agreed upon by direct negotiation. Governments are not in the habit of resigning their functions so completely in the hands of arbitrators as to say, "We have no boundary; make some for us....!"

"Venezuela has represented again and again that the question of the mouth of the Orinoco is the 'knot of the controversy'. . .Yet it is fact that Great Britain has again and again offered to yield that point, if Venezuela would only settle.

"In 1890, Sir T.H. Sanderson, Under Secretary of State, acting for Lord Salisbury, offered to negotiate directly for a frontier of mutual convenience, following as far as possible all natural boundaries and to relinquish freely all territory adjacent to the Orinoco."

In British Guiana, the Daily Chronicle, in a comment on President Cleveland's remarks, wrote that that there was only one condition under which Great Britain was likely to concede the right of the United States to be sole arbiter of the destinies of the other American republics. That condition was that the United States should declare a protectorate over them and take responsibility for their wrongdoings and liabilities, "in fact, assume toward them in deed as well as in word the part or a wet nurse."

The newspaper ridiculed the suggestion for arbitrating the whole dispute, and demanded prompt redress for the Yuruan incident involving the arrest of the policemen.

As reported by The New York Times of 1 January 1896, the Daily Chronicle concluded:

"It must be apparent to all who study the matter that, should Lord Salisbury accept the suggestion thrown out by President Cleveland and agree to submit the matter of the boundary line to arbitration, not reserving therefrom the territory lying on either side of the arbitrary line, such action would be tantamount to conceding that there is some doubt as to whether the Yuruan outrage was committed on British territory. If it were not, the demand for reparation would appear in a vastly different light to that which it at present assumes. Of course, we may be told, in fact a portion of the American press has already told us, the territory is occupied by implication when Great Britain demands an indemnity for the arrest of British policemen at Yuruan, seeing the arrest could not be complained of unless the place were assumed to be under British jurisdiction. It is difficult, however, to see where the implied occupation comes in. The occupation is an occupation de facto. The Union Jack flies at Yuruan, and a British outpost is stationed there to indicate where the defined lines of British Guiana reach to. Beyond this is contested territory, regarding the ownership of which Great Britain is quite prepared to arbitrate, and has all along been quite prepared to arbitrate. That however, she will fall in with the suggestion thrown out in the Presidential message and submit to arbitration her claims to the entire territory claimed by Venezuela is not for a single moment supposable."

On the other hand, the Venezuelan Government was quick in congratulating the United States Government for its stand against the British and for its open support for Venezuela. On 19 December 1895, the day after the President's message was approved by Congress, the Venezuelan Ambassador to Washington, José Andrade, called on Secretary of State Olney to express his country's appreciation.

But business circles in the United States were deeply alarmed over the possibility of war between the United States and Great Britain. As a result, there was panic selling in the Wall Street stock exchanges in New York following the President's special message to Congress.

In Great Britain, Cleveland's statement was severely attacked by the newspapers, while the semi-official media in Germany by and large described it a highly provocative.

With the expectancy of war hanging on the balance, Pope Leo XIII, towards the end of December 1895, offered to find a solution to the escalated border crisis. However, this offer was not taken up by either the United States or Great Britain.

In the Colony of British Guiana itself, a state of excitement existed; and while the residents vehemently rejected the Venezuelan claims to all territory west of the Essequibo River, the British Government never officially consulted its subjects during the crisis period and during subsequent negotiations with the United States and Venezuela.

During this period, Great Britain was already faced with a state of war in its colonial possessions in Southern Africa, and obviously had no intention of having any violent confrontation with the United States. The British Government, therefore, stepped up its exchange of diplomatic letters with the United States and Venezuela with the aim of bringing an early end to the dispute.


Diplomatic correspondence especially with the United States continued with greater momentum from the beginning of 1896. This was occasioned by the German Kaiser's open support for the anti-British actions of President Kruger of the Transvaal (in South Africa). The Kaiser's statement, made in January 1896, was seen as an open threat of war by Germany on Great Britain, and the latter decided to try to win the support of the United States in case a European conflict should break out.

Side by side with the increased diplomatic negotiations, the British arduously worked towards the improvement of Anglo-American friendship. An article by James Bryce, an English writer, in the North American Review of February 1896, explained that the British people knew extremely little about the Venezuela-British Guiana border dispute. Bryce added that he was astounded by "the disclosure of hostility to Great Britain in considerable sections of the American people." He expressed the view that the British, liking the United States more than any other nation, hoped for a permanent alliance.

By February 1896, the tensions seemed to have cooled down to a great extent and there was expectancy that a solution on the border dispute would be forthcoming later in the year. This optimism was expressed by Lord Salisbury, the British Prime Minister, at a meeting of Parliament during the same month. In a speech which was clearly one of appeasement, he declared that "from some points of view the mixture of the United States in the matter may conduce to results which will be satisfactory to us more rapidly than if the United States had not intervened."

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Despite some opposition, the Cleveland administration, nevertheless, intended to push the Venezuelan claim to the extreme. In January 1896, based on a decision of Congress, the United States Commission on Boundary Between Venezuela and British Guiana was appointed by the President "to investigate and report upon the true divisional line between the Republic of Venezuela and British Guiana." It comprised of David J. Brewer, then Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States; Richard H. Alvey, Chief Justice of the Court of Appeals of the District of Columbia, who was also a skilled Spanish scholar; F. R. Coudert, a distinguished member of the New York bar and of the counsel of the United States in the Bering Sea dispute of 1892; Dr. D. C. Gilman, a noted geographer and President of the John Hopkins University; and Andrew D. White, a historian and diplomat. The Commission selected Judge Brewer as its Chairman, and appointed as its secretary, Severo Mallet-Prevost, regarded as a thorough trained scholar and lawyer.


Brewer in a letter to Secretary of State Richard Olney on the 15 January 1896 explained the needs of the Commission and its terms of reference. The letter stated:

Dear Sir:
I have the honor to state that the Commission appointed by the President of the United States "to investigate and report upon the true divisional line between the Republic of Venezuela and British Guiana," has organized by the election of the Honorable David J. Brewer as its president, and is entering upon the immediate discharge of its duties.

In so doing it has, after careful consideration, concluded to address you on the question of securing, so far as possible, the friendly cooperation and aid of the two nations which are directly interested in the now pending boundary differences.

It must have suggested itself to you, as it no doubt has to the President, that this Commission, thus authorized to ascertain and report the boundary line between two foreign nations, bears only a remote resemblance to those tribunals of an international character of which we have had several examples in the past. They were constituted by or with the consent of the disputants themselves, and were authorized by the parties immediately concerned to pronounce a final judgement. The questions at issue were presented by the advocates of the various interests, upon whose diligence and skill the tribunal might safely rely for all data and the arguments essential to the formation of an intelligent judgment.

Their functions were therefore confined to the exercise of judicial powers, and they might fairly expect to reach a result satisfactory to their own consciences, while it commanded the respect of those whose interests were directly involved.

The present Commission, neither by the mode of its appointment nor by the nature of its duties, may be said to belong to tribunals of this character. Its duty will be discharged if it shall diligently and fairly seek to inform the Executive of certain facts touching a large extent of territory in which the United States has no direct interest. Whatever may be the conclusion reached, no territorial aggrandizement nor material gain in any form can accrue to the United States. The sole concern of our Government is the peaceful solution of a controversy between two friendly powers - the just and honorable settlement of the title to disputed territory, and the protection of the United States against any fresh acquisitions in our hemisphere on the part of any European State.

It has seemed proper to the Commission, under these circumstance, to suggest to you the expediency of calling the attention of the Governments of Great Britain and Venezuela to the appointment of the Commission, and explaining both its nature and object. It may be that they would see a way, entirely consistent with their own sense of international propriety, to give the Commission the aid that it is no doubt in their power to furnish in the way of documentary proof, historical narrative, unpublished archives, or the like. It is scarcely necessary to say that if either should deem it appropriate to designate an agent or attorney, whose duty it would be to see that no such proofs were omitted or overlooked, the Commission would be grateful for such evidence of good will and for the valuable results which would be likely to follow therefrom.

Any act of either Government in the direction here suggested might be accompanied by an express reservation as to her claims, and should not be deemed to be an abandonment, or impairment of any position heretofore expressed. In other words, and in lawyers' phase, each might be willing to act the part of an amicus curiae and to throw light upon difficult and complex questions of fact, which should be examined as carefully as the magnitude of the subject demands. The purposes of the pending investigation are certainly hostile to none, nor can it be of advantage to any that the machinery devised by the Government of the United States to secure the desired information should fail of its purpose.

I have the honor to remain, your most obedient servant,

David J. Brewer,


On the 10 January 1896, the same day on which the American President appointed his Commission, the President of Venezuela, by a resolution of the Venezuelan Congress, also appointed a four-member commission to carefully examine, arrange, classify, and index "all documents and cartographical evidences referred to, and to prepare an official report containing a synopsis of said records, documents, maps, and histories, and thus giving to their work an authentic character in the grave matter treated of. The labors of the Commission will be aided at the same time by the works, maps, and documents found in other libraries and archives, and even by the reports of a technical character made to the National Government, since the beginning of the controversy, by those agents charged with the study of the conditions of the usurped Venezuelan territory."

The Commission members to examine the documentation "with the view of elucidating the question of limits between Venezuela and British Guayana" were Dr. Rafael Seijas, as chairman, Dr. Laureano Villaneuva, Dr. Julian Viso, and Marco Antonio Saluzzo.

Subsequently, on the 22 February 1896, in response to the request by the United States Venezuelan Border Commission for relevant documents to assist it with its work, the Ministry of Foreign Relations of Venezuela informed Olney, thus:

Toward the end of December last this department began to perfect a plan to facilitate in favor of those who may take part in the settlement of the boundary question the examination of the innumerable documents, works, and maps collected by Venezuela with the object of re-enforcing her rights in the controversy. That plan eventually resolved itself into the appointment of a Commission of eminent men, composed of four members having a vote, and their operations with respect to the aforesaid maps, documents, and works are clearly defined in the order published in No. 6606 of the Official Gazette, where likewise appears the appointment of the persons chosen for that office.

By this you will see that the labors of the classifying commission embrace making a synthetical report concerning the spirit or nature of the documents, with the aid of which these, together with the books and maps, may be examined much more rapidly and carefully, and therefore to greater advantage. The Government has deemed this more consonant with the necessities of the case than would be the dispatch of the documents themselves forthwith without any key thereto or summary or index to facilitate their examination. The time which the Venezuelan Commission will consume in this work will be made up later on in clearness and in method, as well as in rapidity and order, in so far as concerns the examination of the important collection.

A letter from José Andrade, the Venezuelan Minister to Washington, on the 26 February 1896, also announced that an American attorney, William L. Scruggs, was appointed by the Venezuelan President as his "agent charged with submitting information" to the United States Venezuelan Boundary Commission, and to present "reports relative to the titles and rights of Venezuela."

The Government of Venezuela subsequently submitted a lengthy "brief" to the Commission in which it stated its claim to the disputed territory. This "brief" was based on the contents of the memorandum sent by the Venezuelan Foreign Minister to Olney on 28 February.

The British Government was also cooperative and the American Ambassador in London, in a telegram to Olney on the 10 February 1896, announced: "British Minister of Foreign Affairs readily places at the disposal of the Government of the United States any information in the hands of Her Majesty's Government relating to Venezuelan boundary. Engaged in collecting documents for presentation to Parliament. He will have great pleasure in forwarding advance copies as soon as completed."


But the establishment of the Commission did not obtain unanimous approval. Its establishment encountered some disapproval from the Chamber of Commerce of New York State on the 2 January 1896. The Chamber proposed that the President should change his policy in relation to the Venezuela-British Guiana border dispute, and pointed out that Great Britain might not accept the Commission's decision under a threat of war.

This advice went unheeded and the Commission settled down to its task. To its assistance it invited noted scholars such as Dr. Justin Winsor of Harvard College, distinguished for his work on American history and cartography; Professor J. Franklin Jamison, of Brown University, especially familiar with the history of the Dutch in America; and Professor George L. Burr, of Cornell University, upon whom fell most of the historical research work. For aid in geographical matters, the Commission obtained the assistance of experts attached to the Department of Geological Survey.

After the work of the Commission was organized, Professor Burr travelled to Holland and London to study the Dutch records. He was joined later in those places by F.R. Coudert, a member of the Commission. A special study of maps of the disputed region was also carried out by Mallet-Prevost, the Commission's secretary.

For a few weeks the work of the Commission was the leading news item in British and American newspapers.


Meanwhile, throughout 1896, discussions continued between representatives of Great Britain and Venezuela, with the encouragement of the United States, to reach an agreement over the border dispute. Simultaneously, in support of Venezuela, the United States Government continued its diplomatic efforts to urge the British Government to accept its arbitration proposal. Lord Salisbury, the British Prime Minister, on 5 March 1896, eventually wrote to Sir Julian Pauncefote, the British Ambassador in Washington, outlining his suggestions for an arbitration treaty to be negotiated with the American Government.

Salisbury's proposed the following:

1. Her Britannic Majesty and the President of the United States shall each appoint two or more permanent judicial officers for the purpose of this treaty, and on the appearance of any difference between the two powers, which, in the judgment of either of them, cannot be settled by negotiation, each of them shall designate one of the said officers as arbitrators, and the two arbitrators shall hear and determine any matter referred to them in accordance with this treaty.

2. Before entering on such arbitration, the arbitrators shall select an umpire, by whom any question upon which they disagree, whether interlocutory or final, shall be decided. The decision of such umpire upon any interlocutory question shall be binding upon the arbitrators. The determination of the arbitrators, or, if they disagree, the decision of the umpire, shall be the award upon the matters referred.

3. Complaints made by the nationals of one power against the officers of the other; and pecuniary claims or groups of claims, amounting to not more than £100,000, made on either power by the nationals of the other, whether based on an alleged right by treaty or agreement or otherwise; all claims for damages or indemnity under the said amount; all questions affecting diplomatic or consular privileges; all alleged rights of fishery, access, navigation, or commercial privilege, and all questions referred by special agreement between the two parties, shall be referred to arbitration in accordance with this treaty, and the award thereon shall be final.

4. Any difference in respect to a question or fact or of international law, involving the territory, territorial rights, sovereignty, or jurisdiction of either power, or any pecuniary claim or group of claims of any kind, involving a sum larger than £100,000, shall be referred to arbitration under this treaty. But, if in any such case, within three months after the award has been reported, either power protests that such award is erroneous in respect to some issue of fact, or some issue a international law, the award shall be reviewed by a court composed of three of the Judges of the Supreme Court of Great Britain and three of the Judges of the Supreme Court of the United States; and if the said court shall determine, after hearing the case, by a majority of not less than five to one, that the said Issue has been rightly determined, the award shall stand and be final, but in default of such determination, it shall not be valid. If no protest is entered by either power against the award within the time limited, it shall be final.

5. Any difference, which, in the judgment of either power, materially affects its honor or the integrity or its territory shall not be referred to arbitration under this treaty, except by special agreement.

6. Any difference whatever, by agreement between the two powers, may be referred for decision by arbitration, as herein provided, with the stipulation that, unless accepted by both powers, the decision shall not be valid.

The time and place of their meeting and all arrangements for the hearing and all questions of procedure shall be decided by the arbitrators or by the umpire if need be.


The British Ambassador conveyed Salisbury's proposals to Olney who made the following counter-proposals on 11 April 1896:

IV. Arbitration under this treaty shall also be obligatory. In respect of all questions now pending or hereafter arising, involving territorial rights, boundaries, sovereignty, or jurisdiction, or any pecuniary claim or group or claims aggregating a sum larger than £100,000, and in respect of all controversies not in this treaty specially described, provided, however, that either the Congress of the United States, on the one band, or the Parliament of Great Britain, on the other, at any time before the arbitral tribunal shall have convened for the consideration of any particular subject matter, may by act or resolution declaring such particular subject matter to involve the National honor or integrity, withdraw the same from the operation of this treaty; and, providing further, that if a controversy shall arise when either the Congress of the United States or the Parliament of Great Britain shall not be in session, and such controversy shall be deemed by Her Britannic Majesty's Government, or by that of the United States, acting through the President, to be of such nature that the National honor or integrity may be involved, such difference or controversy shall not be submitted to arbitration under this treaty until the Congress and the Parliament shall have had opportunity to take action thereon.

In the case of controversies provided for by this article the award shall be final, if concurred in by all the arbitrators. If assented to by a majority only, the award shall be final unless one of the parties, within three months from its promulgation, shall protest in writing to the other that the award is erroneous in respect of some issue of fact or of law. In every such case, the award shall be reviewed by a court composed of three of the Judges of the Supreme Court of Great Britain and three of Judges of the Supreme Court of the United States, who, before entering upon their duties, shall agree upon three learned and impartial jurists, to be added to said court in case they shall be equally divided upon the award to be made. To said court there shall be submitted a record in full of all the proceedings of the original arbitral tribunal, which record, as part thereof, shall include the evidence adduced to such tribunal. Thereupon said court shall proceed to consider said award upon said record, and may either affirm the same or make such other award as the principles of law applicable to the facts appearing by aid record shall warrant and require, and the award so affirmed or so rendered by said court, whether unanimously or by a majority vote, shall be final. If, however, the court shall be equally divided upon the subject of the award to be made, the three jurists agreed upon as hereinbefore provided shall be added to the said court, and the award of the court so constituted, whether rendered unanimously or by a majority vote, shall he final. . .

It only remains to observe that is Article 4, as amended, should prove acceptable, no reason is perceived why the pending Venezuelan boundary dispute should not be brought within the treaty by express words of inclusion. If however, no treaty for general arbitration can be now expected, it cannot be improper to add that the Venezuelan boundary dispute seems to offer a good opportunity for one of these tentative experiments at arbitration which, as Lord Salisbury justly intimates, would be of decided advantage, as tending to indicate the lines upon which a scheme for general arbitration can be judiciously drawn.


Discussions continued throughout the year in Washington on this proposed arbitration treaty. The American Government, during this process, was closely advised by José Andrade, the Venezuelan Minister in Washington. By the beginning of November, it became clear that an agreement was reached, and this was indicated on the 10 November 1896 by Secretary of State Olney when he wrote to Brewer informing him of the impending agreement and suggested that the Commission should be suspended.

Olney's letter to Brewer stated:

My Dear Judge:
You will see by the morning papers that this happened which at our last interview I said was likely to happen within three or four days.

The United States and Great Britain are in entire accord as to the provisions of a proposed treaty between Great Britain and Venezuela. The treaty is so eminently just and fair as respects both parties - so thoroughly protects the rights and claims of Venezuela - that I cannot conceive of its not being approved by Venezuelan President and Congress. It is thoroughly approved by the counsel of Venezuela here and by the Venezuelan Minister at this capital.

In view of this situation it is extremely improbable that the Commission of which you are president will be called upon to make a report. In the view of the President and myself it is also desirable that the deliberations of the Commission should be suspended - for reasons which I stated to you at our last interview and which I need not repeat - until further notice. There need be no ostentation about the suspension nor any special publicity given to it, but I wish to be in a position to assure all parties concerned that such is the fact.

Please treat this as strictly confidential. . .


Indeed, an accord on the text of the treaty was reached on 10 November. Two days later - on 12 November 1896 - the "agreement between Great Britain and the United States of America on a proposed treaty of arbitration between Great Britain and Venezuela" was signed by Pauncefote and Olney at the State Department in Washington.

The treaty stated, inter alia:

The Agreement

1. An arbitral tribunal shall be immediately appointed, to determine the boundary line between the colony of British Guiana and the Republic of Venezuela.

2. The tribunal shall consist of two members nominated by the Judges of the Supreme Court of the United States and two members nominated by the Judges of the British High Court of Justice, and a fifth selected b the four persons so nominated; or in the event of their failure to agree within three months from the time of their nomination, selected by the King of Sweden. The person so selected shall be the President of the tribunal. The persons nominated by the Judges of the United States and the British High Court of Justice, respectively, may be judges of either of said courts.

3. The tribunal shall investigate and ascertain the extent of the territories belonging to, or that might be lawfully claimed by the United Netherlands or by the Kingdom of Spain, respectively, at the time of the acquisition by Great Britain of the colony of British Guiana, and shall determine the boundary line between the colony of British Guiana and the Republic of Venezuela.

4. In deciding the matter submitted, the arbitrators shall ascertain all facts which they deem necessary to a decision of the controversy, and shall be governed by the following rules, which are agreed upon by the high contracting parties as rules to be taken as applicable to the case, and by such principles of international law not inconsistent therewith as the arbitrators shall determine to be applicable to the case.

Rules of the Tribunal

[The rules which are to govern the tribunal are]:

1. Adverse holding or prescription during a period of fifty years shall make good title. The arbitrators may deem exclusive political control of a district as well as actual settlement thereof sufficient to constitute adverse holding or to make title by prescription.

2. The arbitrators may recognize and give effect to rights and claims resting upon any other ground whatever valid according to existing international law and on any principle of international law which the arbitrators may deem to be applicable to the case and are not in contravention to the foregoing rules.

3. In determining the boundary line, if the territory of one party be found by the tribunal to have been in the occupation of the subjects or citizens of the other party, such effect shall be given to such occupation as reason, justice, the principles of international law, and the equities of the case shall, in the opinion of the tribunal, require. . .

This agreement set the stage for the British and Venezuelan negotiators in Washington to finalise the text of a separate arbitration treaty between their two countries. In this process, the Venezuelan side received legal and diplomatic support from the American Government.


With these diplomatic developments taking place, Olney, on 28 December, wrote to Brewer thanking the Commission for its work:

I had the honor to inform you about the 10th of November last that Great Britain and the United States had reached a complete understanding between themselves respecting the Venezuelan boundary question; that they had agreed upon the provisions of a treaty for the arbitration of the question as between Great Britain and Venezuela; that there was little, if any, doubt that the arrangement would be acceptable to Venezuela; that in these circumstances a report from the Commission would probably not be required, and accordingly that suspension of the labors of the Commission until further notice would not be out of place.

I have now the honor to apprise you that the expectations entertained when my communication was made in November last have been realized. The substantial provisions of the treaty referred to have been approved by the Venezuelan Government, so that when matters of detail and form are arranged nothing will remain but the customary signatures to the treaty and the submission of the same to the Venezuelan Congress for its ratification. There would therefore seem to be no reason why the Commission should not at once proceed to close up its work, which would seem to involve nothing more than putting the material it has accumulated into such shape as to make it easily available for the purposes of the arbitral tribunal to be constituted under the proposed treaty. . .


Following the signing of the Treaty of Washington by Venezuela and Great Britain on 2 February 1897, the Commission was dissolved and, despite Olney's view that "a report from the Commission would probably not be required", it nevertheless presented a Report to the President. The Report was comprised up of three octavo volumes, which examined the history of Dutch colonisation in Essequibo and the geography of the area, and an atlas containing seventy-six maps. All of this material was subsequently made available to Venezuela to prepare its case before the Arbitral Tribunal.

The Commission presented the following Report on the 27 February 1897 to the President:

To the President.


Pursuant to the act of Congress, of date December 21, 1895 (29 Stat. L., 1), the undersigned were, on January 1, 1896, appointed "to investigate and report upon the true divisional line between the Republic of Venezuela and British Guiana." Immediately thereafter, and on January 4, we convened at the office of the Secretary of State and organized by the election of David J. Brewer as president and Severo Mallet-Prevost as secretary.

As we had a "name," it seemed necessary also that we have a "local habitation," not merely for the meetings of the Commission and the work of it employees, but also for the collection of maps, books, and papers, and for conferences with all who might be interested in the question. To that end we leased a suite of seven rooms in the fourth story of the Sun Building, No. 1317 F Street Northwest, and furnished them moderately, yet sufficiently, for the work of the Commission.

We were at the outset confronted with the fact that our work was both novel and difficult; that there were no precedents to guide as to the manner in which the inquiry should be prosecuted, the character or amount of testimony to be obtained, or the means by which it should be secured. While the boundary line, whose true location we were called upon to ascertain, was a matter of importance in its ultimate determination to both Venezuela and Great Britain, neither Government was consulted or took part in the creation of the Commission or in the selection of Commissioners. Each of them might have ignored our Commission as the result of a merely voluntary movement on the part of a nation in no way personally interested in the territorial question. Yet we felt that while neither Government was bound by what we should ascertain and report, each might be willing to assist in our work and might be possessed of evidence of great value not easily at least obtainable from other sources. We therefore addressed a communication to the Secretary of State, with the view of its presentation to the two Governments so directly interested. . .

We take pleasure in adding that during the entire life of the Commission each of the two Governments has manifested in a most agreeable and satisfactory manner its desire to help us in our investigations. Every call made upon either has been promptly answered, and there has been an effort to put us in possession of all the facts which either deemed of importance to a satisfactory solution of the question in dispute.

Beyond this, it is fitting also that we mention the fact that individual citizens of this country as well as of others have been alike kindly disposed, offering and furnishing to us books, maps, pamphlets, and documents of various kinds in their possession which seemed to them likely to be of assistance in the determination of the boundary. It has certainly been gratifying to note the general disposition to assist in the work of the Commission as a means evidently believed by all likely to bring about a peaceful and honorable solution of a troublesome question. It would be impossible for us within the limits of this report to name all the individuals and all the offers of assistance; still we desire not only to record the fact of these offers, but also to express our thanks therefor. While for reasons hereafter indicated the final solution of this controversy has been transferred to another tribunal, it is none the less a source of extreme satisfaction that this general interest was manifested in the work, and it is therefore fitting that we should express in this way our gratitude to all who thus facilitated that work.

In making our report, we find it not wholly convenient to pursue a strictly chronological order, but shall endeavor to indicate the lines of our investigations, the extent to which our inquires have been prosecuted, and the limits which we had reached when our work was interrupted by notice from the State Department.

We were early impressed with the benefit to be derived from the assistance of gentlemen whose recognized eminence in historical and geographical studies justly entitles them to be called experts. We were furnished by Mr. P. Lee Phillips, of the Congressional Library, with a list of some 300 or more maps showing the territory in dispute, and some of them also showing lines of division between the territories of Holland and Spain.

We applied to Dr. Justin Winsor, librarian of Harvard College, one of the leading geographers of there country, for an examination of the various maps and such suggestions as he might make upon the evidence furnished thereby. He visited us at Washington, and after a few days' consultation and discussion it was deemed advisable that he should place in writing his views and suggestions. He accordingly did so, and his report is included among the papers presented herewith. . .

It was apparent not merely from the information thus obtained, but also from an examination of the maps themselves, that there was great confusion in respect to the lines shown on the several maps.

It was deemed important to make further investigation, to place the maps and charts in groups so far as possible, to trace any connection that there might be between them, and to develop at length the values of the evidence furnished by them as to the line of division. In pursuance of this, our secretary, Mr. Mallet-Prevost, conducted with great care an examination into this subject, and has prepared a report discussing exhaustively all the cartographical evidence. He has succeeded in arranging the maps in classes or groups, shown the historical connection between them, and pointed out the value of the evidence furnished by them. . .

In like manner we secured the services of Prof. John Franklin Jameson, professor of history at Brown University, and Prof. George L. Burr, professor of History at Cornell University, recognized authorities in antiquarian researches, who carefully examined certain historical questions and prepared papers which accompany this report. Professor Burr, especially, has been of great service, having given to the Commission a year's labor, part of which was in the examination of original documents in Holland and London. He has been of the utmost assistance in bringing before us the historical evidence bearing upon the fact, time, extent, and significance of the various settlements by the Spaniards and Dutch in and adjacent to the disputed territory. . .

We were also assisted by Prof. James C. Hanson, of the Wisconsin State University, in the examination of a collection of maps and charts belonging to that institution, and by Dr. De Haan, of John Hopkins University, in the matter of translations of Dutch documents and the examination of the archives in Holland. While no formal paper was prepared by either of these gentlemen to be incorporated in our report, their services were none the less of great value and deserve especial mention.

The confusion apparent on the face of the maps, even of the later ones, suggested a general lack of geographical knowledge, and it was deemed important that we should have a map promptly prepared expressing the latest results of all researches and examinations. Accordingly, we applied to the officials in charge of the Geological Survey and of the Hydrographic Office, who promptly placed at our disposal all the material in their possession, and also personally rendered great assistance. Mr. Marcus Baker, of the former office, was specially detailed for the work. A preliminary map was soon prepared, and has proved of great value, each of us having a copy thereof constantly by his side during all the reading and examination of books, documents, and other matters.

As this preliminary map has proved of so much value, we deemed it important to accompany our report with a series of maps, which should be as accurate as possible and represent not merely the geographic but the other natural features of the disputed territory. Accordingly, Mr. Baker, assisted by others, has given months of labor to the matter of maps and charts. Some of the maps Professor Burr has transformed into historical charts by noting thereon the various towns, settlements, and posts, with the time of their establishment and the duration of their existence. An inspection of these maps will be found to give both cartographic and historic information of great value.

Not only that. We have had reproduced some of the more important maps and charts of the last three centuries which has been made the objects of examination and criticism by our secretary and have had them, together with some rare maps and charts collected by Professor Burr and some obtained from the archives at Rome, bound in an atlas, which is one of the volumes we submit as a part of our report. We can not speak too highly of the valuable services of Mr. Baker in this matter, and desire also to express out thanks to the officials of the Geological Survey and the Hydrographic Office for their kindness.

In the matter of historical investigation there were questions as to the actual settlements, when and where made, by which nation, how long continued, and the acts of dominion exercised in connection with such settlements over contiguous territory. This opened a wide field for investigation. It became necessary to examine many books of travel, historical works supposed to contain more or less information in respect to settlements, other evidences of such settlements, and also all general histories of the two countries. This investigation included an examination into the Spanish settlements on the Orinoco from the time of the first location of the city of Santo Thome prior to 1600, the Dutch settlements on the Essequibo and the Pomeroon, the Spanish missions east of the Imataca Mountains in portions of the Cuyuni basin, and the temporary establishments of the two nations in various parts of the disputed territory; also the several efforts of the two nations to exercise dominion and control over the Indians residing in these districts, to carry on trade and commerce with those Indians, and the long series of efforts on the part of each to check and destroy the aggressive and what was supposed to be the unwarranted efforts of the other nation to acquire a foothold in the territory.

This investigation imposed on us a large amount of labor. Many books were examined, some of which although in advance supposed to contain information bearing upon the question, were found on perusal to be entirely barren thereof, while others were very instructive. Without attempting an enumeration of the various books examined, we may state in a general way that some one of our number, and sometimes all of us separately, read through every book which, either by its title or the suggestions of any person, seemed likely to throw any light upon the questions of settlement, occupation, and territorial dominion. The extent of this work no one not a member of the Commission and not participating in its labors can fully appreciate.

Beyond these historical works and works of travel it was deemed probable that in the diplomatic correspondence between the officials of the two countries, in the reports made by the officials of either colony to the home nation there might be found statements of facts, narrations of events, reports of conferences, which would at least help in reaching a satisfactory conclusion upon the question of occupation, or disclose admissions as to territorial right. In addition to the diplomatic correspondence which had been put into print, we were furnished by the State Department with its bound volumes of such correspondence, all of which bearing directly or indirectly, probably, or possibly upon the question, we had copied for the purposes of examination, and also thereafter carefully examined the same.

The Treaty of Munster, while it contained a confirmation by each nation to the other of the places, etc., of which it was in possession, did not name those places, and did not define the boundary between the possessions of the two nations, nor in terms indicate any rule by which such boundary could be defined; neither, on the other hand, did it provide for any future convention or treaty for the determination of such boundary. It seemed possible, if not probable, that there were existing certain international rules generally understood and accepted of sufficient application to settle the true boundary between the possessions of the two nations. Impressed with the conviction that such might have been the thought of the two nations to this convention, we deemed it important to examine and discuss various treatises on international law. This Treaty of Munster, it must be borne in mind, was signed a century and half after the discovery of America, and at a time when, as is a well-known fact, European nations had established many settlements within the limits of this continent, and it is not unreasonable to suppose that by that time some rules for the delineation of boundary had become recognized, and not improbable that these two nations when confirming to each other their respective possessions had such rules in mind as sufficient to fix the boundaries thereof. In pursuance of this we examined and discussed all the available treatises on international law, from Vattel to the present time, in their bearing upon the question before us. In the course of such examination our attention was directed to the fact that questions of this kind entered into the discussion between the United States and Spain in reference to the settlement of the boundaries between what is now Louisiana and Texas, and also between this country and Great Britain in respect to the boundaries between our northern possessions and British Columbia. We examined at length the correspondence between the representatives of these respective nations concerning these matters, with a view of ascertaining if possible the opinions of those nations to some extent interested in this controversy as to the rules for determining questions of boundary.

It was developed by such examination that there are certain rules in respect to the delimitation of boundary which had been generally acquiesced in by all nations, and may be said to have then become a part of international law; other rules whose validity was denied and of which, therefore, it could only be safely said that it is doubtful whether they entered into the thought of the two nations in making this treaty; and still others which were mere claims on the part of one nation or another, and which were so generally denied that it must be assumed that they were not regarded in this treaty.

Before we had proceeded far in our investigation it became obvious that we must extend our inquiry beyond matters that had hitherto passed into print. No treaty had ever been made between the nations which definitely determined the boundary line. While the Treaty of Munster in 1648 confirmed to each the possessions it then had, there was no specification of those possessions and no indication of the territorial limits which attached to the actual settlements. In the diplomatic correspondence there was no attempt at an accurate description of any boundary line. Whatever there was in such correspondence by way of claim on the one side and concession on the other, or claim on the side without denial on the other, which tended to show that certain places and districts were recognized as belonging to one or the other Government, there was nothing which could be said to approximate an agreement as to the true location of the line dividing the territories of the nations. Neither did the multitude of maps published during the last three centuries disclose any consensus of opinion among cartographers in respect to the divisional line. Books of history and travel were not only lacking in definiteness, but also in many respects conflicting in their statements, many of them supporting such statements by references to unpublished papers and reports. These things combined to make it clear that no satisfactory answer could be given to the question submitted to us without some investigation of original documents; and the proposition was debated whether we should ourselves visit Spain and Holland or send special agents to make examinations of the archives of the two nations and obtain copies of the valuable documents to be found therein.

While debating this question we were advised by the Venezuelan Government that it had caused an examination to be made of the archives in Spain and copies taken of such documents found therein as were supposed to throw light upon the question before us. We were also advised that the British Government was collecting evidence and was preparing to submit to Parliament a book containing the information it had thus acquired. It seemed probable that the collections being made by the two Governments might relieve us from the necessity of personal visit, or of sending special agents, or at least aid materially in determining the line and scope of our own examinations. Hence we delayed action in this direction. The first two volumes of the British Blue Books were placed in our hands the latter part of March, and the Venezuelan copies, as translated and printed, were received in June. The latter consisted wholly of Spanish documents. The two volumes of the British Blue Books contained little from the Dutch archives, and while there was some reference to documents found therein, the documents themselves were not quoted. Under these circumstances, our pressing duty seemed to be a thorough examination of the archives at Holland. Accordingly, on May 9 Professor Burr left to engage in this work. He remained abroad until October 28, spending his time mainly in Holland, though visiting London for the examination of certain Dutch documents that had been surrendered by Holland to England. He was assisted in this work by Dr. De. Haan, and the result of their researches is found in Volume II.

Mr. Coudert, of our Commission, spent several weeks abroad, and also gave his personal attention to this work of examination. Through the kind assistance of Archbishop Corrigan, of New York City, we obtained access to the documents found in the Propaganda at Rome, which contain reports of the missionary establishments in a part of this disputed territory, and which proved of especial value in determining the extent and character of the Spanish occupation. The large collection of documents from the Spanish archives presented by the Venezuelan Government, as well as that found in the British Blue Books, led us to believe that there was no necessity for any further examination of such archives.

In the month of November, Professor Burr having returned from Holland, the material which he had collected, the British Blue Books, the Venezuelan documents, and the unprinted evidence which had been furnished by the Venezuelan Government, were all before us together with such information as we had obtained from the Propaganda at Rome and from our examination and perusal of the various books of history, travel, and international law, as well as of the diplomatic correspondence. At that time we received advices from the Secretary of State of the conclusion of negotiations looking to an arbitration of the matter in dispute. Our advices were conveyed in letters of date November 10 and December 28, copies of which are hereto attached. Upon the receipt of these letters we stopped the work of examination and consultation, and since then we have been preparing an atlas and printing the testimony we have collected and the reports of experts. We had hoped to have everything in print and ready to submit before this, but owing to the time required for translation of documents and in securing accuracy in the maps, we have been delayed and are unable to return these publications at the present time. We have though it wiser to be accurate than swift, but hope within a few weeks to transmit to the State Department the completed work.

Our publications will consist of four volumes, as follows:
Vol. I. Containing this report and several historical reports.
Vol. II. Documents from the Dutch archives, prepared by Professor Burr, together with certain miscellaneous documents furnished by the Venezuelan Government.
Vol. III. Cartographical reports.
Vol. IV. An atlas comprising seventy six maps.

We have also had bound a few copies of the following publications, which have been presented to the Commission for its consideration:

British Blue Books, five volumes.
Venezuelan documents, three volumes.
Historical account furnished by the Venezuelan Government, together with several briefs and arguments.

Before closing this report, it is due to our secretary, Mr. Mallet-Prevost, that we record our appreciation of the great value of his services. He has not only been an admirable secretary in the ordinary sense of the term, but, more than that, a wise counsel and adviser. He has borne the burden of the detail work of the office, and has also assisted in the collection and collation of evidence and shared in our study and examination. His knowledge of the Spanish language and his experience in searching official records have enabled him to render constant assistance, while his untiring industry has largely lessened our own labors.

Of the employees in our office, it is no more than justice to say that they have all proved competent and faithful.

In conclusion, may we not properly advert to the fact that while in consequence of the recent treaty between the two nations specially interested, which treaty was brought about by the active efforts of this Government, our own work has been terminated, the Commission has been a factor of no inconsiderable importance in the solution of the problem. It may be inappropriate for us to enter into any defense of the action of Congress in authorizing it creation, and yet it may not be amiss to notice that at that time there had been developed and was existing no little bitterness of feeling between the people of Great Britain and of the United states; talk of war was abundant, and the business interests of both nations were affected prejudicially by the possibilities of conflict. The appointment of the Commission, though it had no absolute power of determine the question at issue, was accepted as affording a means for a full investigation of the question in dispute, and for an ascertainment, by gentlemen impartial and disinterested, of the facts respecting the controverted boundary. The general belief that a full disclosure of the facts in respect to this troublesome question would open the way to some peaceful solution of the dispute promptly allayed the apprehensions of war, and all waited until this Commission should have completed its examination. Not only was this apprehension of conflict allayed, but each nation seemed to feel that the creation of the Commission was equivalent to an invitation to the two contesting nations to appear before the bar of public opinion and make each its showing as to the merits of its claim.

It is not strange that under the influence of this, each nation proceeded not merely to state its contentions, but to examine the various depositories of evidence in Spain, Holland Rome, London, Georgetown, and Caracas for proof of facts to sustain such contentions; and the many volumes of original matter taken from these depositories which since the appointment of the Commission have been printed have thrown a flood of light upon the question. More than that, as each nation has made thus independently it examination of historical and other facts, it would seem that each has become impressed with the conviction that the question is one of such nature as to justify reference to an arbitral tribunal; that there is no such absolute certainty of right on the part of either as to justify a mere forcible assertion thereof, and that the question is really one calling for judicial examination and determination. So a wise and just view of the case is that the Commission has been a potent factor in bringing the two nations into a consent to submit the matter in dispute to an arbitral tribunal. We are not blind to the fact that the air today is full of arbitration as a just and proper way to settle international differences, and we can but hope that this Commission has helped to the consummation of such a happy result generally, as well as in respect to this particular dispute. It is also believed that the mass of documents, maps, and reports, already referred to which have been collected, sifted, and submitted to critical examination by the Commission will prove to be of great use to the arbitral tribunal, materially abridging their labors and therefore insuring a much more early solution and settlement of the question involved than would otherwise be possible, thus removing all the more speedily and completely a danger which has threatened normal international relations for many years past.

All of which is respectfully submitted.

David J. Brewer
R. H. Alvey
F.R. Coudert
Daniel C. Gilman Andrew D. White

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For the United States Venezuelan Boundary Commission, Professor George Burr prepared a preliminary report in which he examined the claim of Dutch rights to territory adjacent to the Orinoco River. It was done before he did an actual examination of the Dutch archives in Amsterdam and elsewhere. This report was no doubt prepared because of British claims to the upper Cuyuni basin which included lands very close to the Orinoco River.

Burr's report is reproduced below:


In the course of the controversy over the Guiana boundary, it has been alleged (1) that the charters of the Dutch West India Company named the river Orinoco as one of the limits of its grant, and (2) that within the limits of the grant these charters gave territorial jurisdiction. Thus the British "Blue Book", "Venezuela No. 1" states (p. 5):

In 1621 the Charter of the Dutch West India Company was granted by the States-General.. This Charter, reaffirmed in 1637, gave the Orinoco as the limit of the Company's territorial jurisdiction.

And again (p. 7):

After the Treaty of Munster, fresh regulations were again issued by the States-General to the Dutch West India Company, in which the Orinoco is again treated as the limit of its jurisdiction.

And yet again (p. 8):

In 1674 the Charter of the West India Company was renewed, and in the preamble the Colonies of Essequibo and Pomeroon are enumerated, the limit of the Company's jurisdiction being still fixed at the river Orinoco.

To determine the grounds for these statements, and to learn what more in the grants to the Company might be pertinent to this question, I have, at the request of the Commission, made a careful study of the charters of the Company and of all the legislation of the States-General in its belief, so far as printed in the great official collection of the States-General's acts.


The Company received its first charter on June 3, 1621. This charter consists of forty-five articles. The only specification of limits is in Article I, whereby all outside the Company are prohibited from travel and trade . . . "to the coasts and lands of Africa, from the Tropic of Cancer to the Cape of Good Hope, or, furthermore, to the lands of America, beginning from the south end of' Newfoundland through the straits of Magellan, Le Maire, or other straits and passages lying thereabout, to the Straits of An Jan [corresponding to our Bering Strait], whether to the North Sea or to the South Sea, or to any of the islands on the one side or on the other or lying between the two; or, moreover, to the Australian and southern lands stretching and lying between the meridians of the Cape of Good Hope on the east, and on the west the east end of New Guinea, inclusive."

It will be seen that there is here no mention of the Orinoco, nor indeed of any other American limit between Newfoundland on the one coast and Bering Strait on the other. The charter was meant, that is, to include the entire coast of America.

Six days later, on June 9, 1621, there was again issued, by itself, this edict of prohibition, the specification of limits being couched in precisely the same terms as in the charter. On June 10, 1622 the salt trade within the Company's limits, which had not at first been included in their monopoly, was added to it; but the limits are themselves not specified, save by reference to the earlier documents. The main objective point of this salt trade was beyond the Orinoco -- at Punta de Araya, near Cumana. On November 26, 1622, these prohibitions of June 9, 1621, and June 10, 1622, had to be renewed; but the territorial limits are not again specified.

On February 13, 1623, the charter was slightly amplified; but there was no change to limits, and therefore no mention of these. Nor were they mentioned in the prohibition of May 24, 1624, which forbade emigration or transport of emigrants save through the Company. And the form of government promulgated on October 13, 1629, for the territorial acquisitions of the Company is equally without definition of limits.

In thinking the charter "reaffirmed in 1637" the English Blue Book is in error. Granted for twenty-four years, it did not expire till 1645. Even then it was not at once renewed, for its friends sought strenuously the consolidation of the West India Company with the East, whose charter had also just run out. It was not until July 4, 1647, that the States-General promulgated the intelligence that on March 20 preceding they had prolonged for another quarter-century the charter of the West India Company. The limits were unchanged, and are not restated. When at the end of 1671 the charter again expired, it was thrice renewed for periods of eight months at a time, pending discussion, and naturally without any mention of territorial limits. The fate of the old Company had long been sealed, and on September 20, 1674, the States-General created by charter an entirely new one. Its territorial limits were vastly narrower; "To wit, that within the period of this current century, and thereafter to the year 1700, inclusive, (the legislators evidently counted the year 1700 as part of the next century) no native or subject of these lands shall, otherwise than in the name of this United Company, be at liberty to sail or trade to the coasts and lands of Africa, reckoning from the Tropic of Cancer to the latitude of thirty degrees south of the Equator, including all the islands in that district lying on the aforesaid coasts, and especially the islands St. Thomas, Annebon, Isle de Principe, and Fernando Polo, together with the places . . . of Essequibo and Pomeroon, lying on the continent of America, and also the islands Curacao, Aruba, and Buonaire..." And that is all. Elsewhere in the old domain anybody might now trade.

[. . . This charter had been long in process of creation. As early as June 7, 1669, it was under discussion in the provincial estates of Holland, the limits then suggested being precisely those later adopted. On April 2, 1674, this provincial body submitted to the States-General another draft, in which to the two places on the American mainland, Essequibo and Pomeroon, were added New Netherland (which the Amsterdamers still hoped to regain from the English), and also a provision that the new West India Company might retain "such further places and districts on the American mainland as it should take actual possession of by the creation of forts, warehouses, or established trade. . ." But in the new draft submitted to the Estates of Holland on August 13, 1674, this interesting supplementary clause has dropped out. In those earlier forms, no more than in the finished charter, is there the slightest mention of the Orinoco. . .]

On November 30, 1700, this charter was renewed for thirty years more (to date from January 1, 1701), without change or restatement of limits; and again, on August 8, 1730, for another thirty years (to date from January 1, 1781), still without change or restatement. At the end of 1760 it was again renewed for a single year without change of limits, and on January 1, 1762, for thirty years more, expiring with the dissolution of the company at the close of the year 1791.

It is thus clear that, from beginning to end of it existence, the charter of the Dutch West India Company never named the Orinoco as its limit. Yet in the renewal of 1700 there is a mention of that river which is at least of interest. Differing rates of toll had been established for cargoes to "New Netherland", to "the West Indies", and to "other places of America"; and now, "for the better elucidation of the aforesaid charter", the States-General "further explains" "that under the name of New Netherland" may be included "that part of North America which stretches westward and southward from the south end of Newfoundland to the Cape of Florida", while "under the name of West Indies are understood the coasts and lands from the Cape of Florida to the River Orinoco, together with the Curacao Islands", and that by the phrase "the other places of America", . . . whether , "in the oldest or preceding charter", "are denoted all the Caribbean islands -- Cuba, Jamaica, Hispaniola, and Puerto Rico included -- together with all the coasts and lands from the River Orinoco aforesaid, through the straits of Magellan, Le Maire, or other straits and passages thereabouts, to the straits of Anjan", etc.

It will hardly be claimed that the Orinoco is hereby made a boundary of the colony of Essequibo, for this will carry the other frontier to Bering Strait. And somewhat the same difficulty is offered by those enactments of the fourth and fifth decades of the seventeenth century, in which alone in all the legislation of the States-General I have else found a mention of the Orinoco. It is one of these -- that of 1637 -- which the English Blue Book has in its text taken for a reaffirmation of the charter; and it is part of another which, by some confusion, it has reprinted in its appendix.

The circumstances of these enactments seem to have been as follows: The policy of carrying the war with Spain into America had proved so popular, especially after the Dutch successes in Brazil and the capture of the Spanish silver fleet in 1628, that in 1632 it was found necessary to put some restrictions on the privateers. At any rate, on May 14 of that year the States-General issued an enactment that for the space of one year (to the end of May, 1633) no armed ships "shall be free to sail to the coasts of Africa, Brazil, or New Netherland, or elsewhere where the Company may have trade . . ., on any account whatsoever, nor under any pretext that may be urged -- lack of provisions, fresh water, or whatever else -- on pains of the penalties prescribed in the charter against those who violate it: Yet shall the aforesaid ships prior to the date above named of the last of May, 1633, be free to sail to the West Indies, to wit, the river Orinoco, westward along the coast of Cartagena, Puerto Bello, Honduras, Campeachy, the Gulf of Mexico, and the coast of Florida, together with all the islands lying within these limits, in order there to carry on all manner of warfare, by sea and by land, against the King of Spain, his subjects and allies."

A month or so after the expiration of this prohibition, on July 15, 1633, it was renewed, this time without restriction as to period, but with a notable change as to territory. Brazil is added to the permitted lands, while the clause defining "on any account whatsoever" (from "nor under any pretext" to "prescribed in the charter against those who violate it") -- is stricken out. Ships of war were now, therefore, prohibited only from sailing "to the coasts of Africa, or New Netherland, or elsewhere where the Company may have trade," but may sail "to the coasts of Brazil; likewise into the West Indies, to wit, the river Orinoco westward along the coast of Cartagena, Puerto Bello, Honduras, Campeachy, the Gulf of Mexico, and the coast of Florida," etc.

It is this enactment of 1633 which is printed in part in the English Blue Book as "Regulations for the Dutch West India Company", and with the appended note that "there are some minute verbal alterations, not affecting the sense, between the text of 1632 and that of 1633." It has been pointed out that the regulations are not for the Company, but for the "armed ships" of others; and I think it will appear that the transfer of Brazil from the prohibited coasts of the one edict to the permitted coast of the other affects the sense at least enough to make it clear that the Orinoco is not meant as a limit of the Company's jurisdiction -- for Brazil, in 1633 as in 1632, was the most highly valued and the most tenaciously held of all the Company's possessions. It is not as a limit of the West India Company, but as the first term is a definition of the West Indies, that the name of the Orinoco occurs; and a glance at the maps will show with what perfect geographical fitness, for the mouth of this river is precisely the point where the long line of the Caribbean islands, terminating in Trinidad, reaches the coast. And surely there are other reasons, besides those of boundary, which could make such a landmark as the great mouth of the Orinoco, beyond which to the east there were in any case by common confession no Spanish settlements, a wise limits for ships of war. It is, alas, not quite certain, as the Guiana coast is not mentioned either among those prohibited or those permitted, that it is not in both enactments included "the coasts of Brazil."

Much more susceptible of the interpretation here urged by the English Blue Book would seem another statute of the States-General, enacted in 1635 and renewed in 1637. On January 6, 1635, "by advice and deliberation of the Directors" of the West India Company, the States threw open to all subjects of the United Provinces the trade in "wood, tobacco, cattle, and all kinds of wares or merchandise in certain parts of the limits of the charter of the said Company," namely: . . . "The ships of the aforesaid subjects shall be free to sail to the West Indies: To wit, the river Orinoco, westward along the coast of Cartagena, Puerto Bello, Honduras, Campeachy, the Gulf of Mexico, and the coast of Florida, together with all the islands lying within these limits, but they shall on no account whatsoever be free to sail to the coast of Africa; nor to New Netherland, or elsewhere where the said Company has trade. . ."

And on October 16, 1637, this edict was renewed without change of terms. In both enactments Brazil is entirely ignored; but on April 29, 1638, the trade of Brazil was thrown open by a separate ordinance, which was supplemented by others of August 10, 1648, and December 11, 1649. In these, the phrase of territorial description is "to the city Olinda de Pernambuco, and the coasts of Brazil"; . . . and the "Wild Coast", as the Dutch called the coast of Guyana, is nowhere mentioned.

Now, here at last we have the Orinoco named in such way as to suggest a limit of monopoly. But a more careful inspection shows that it is as the first Spanish point, not as the last Dutch one, that it is named. It is to be the beginning of free trade, but nevertheless lie somewhat beyond the last port closed by monopoly. And what was restricted by these enactments was not the territorial authority of the Company, which everywhere, as in Brazil, for example, remained on precisely the same footing and with the same limits as ever, but solely its monopoly of trade.

On August 10, 1648, the States-General issued yet another of these regulations as to trade. It was not, as might possibly be inferred from its date, an outcome of the Treaty of Munster. The territorial limits of this particular restriction were adopted by the West India Company itself as early as October 14, 1645, after much discussion as to the best interests of trade, and were submitted on April 9, 1647, in precisely this form to the States-General, in the report of the committee on the reform of the West India Company. It is clear at a glance that what is here thrown open to free trade is again the Spanish coasts of the Caribbean and the Gulf, and that the Orinoco serves as a point of departure for these, while what is reserved to the Company is the entire remaining coast of America, with that of West Africa. Were this a territorial claim, it would imply Dutch ownership of all America and Africa. It is in fact a trade restriction implying in itself no territorial claims whatever, though territorial possessions doubtless had their share in determining this restriction of trade. As originally drawn in 1645, and as submitted to the States-General in 1647, what was permitted by the regulation was not primarily trade, but "to attack or injure the enemy", and it was explicitly set forth that "it was not intended to license the ship or ships. . . merely to trade in or carry timber, salt, tobacco or cotton, and all other wares, . . .but it is also designed to commit offensively and defensively every hostility and damage to the King of Castile's subjects." But the peace with Spain having intervened, in 1648 it was enacted without these aggressive clauses, but without change as to territorial limits.

As the new and final charter of 1674 granted the new Company formed by it nothing else on the American mainland than "the places of Essequibo and Pomeroon", the Orinoco could hardly again come into question, even as a trade limit, unless the Orinoco were counted the boundary of Pomeroon. That it was so counted never appears in the legislation of the States-General, and seems expressly precluded by the terms ("the territory of the State, extending . . . to beyond the river Waini, not far from the mouth of the river Orinoco") of the remonstrance addressed to the States-General to Spain in 1769.

There result, then, from this review of the legislation of the States-General, the conclusions:

1. That neither in any charter of the Dutch West India Company, not in any "reaffirmation" or extension of any charter, is there mention of the Orinoco as a limit.

2. That in none of the published legislation on behalf of that Company is the Orinoco made a boundary of territorial right, possession, or jurisdiction.

3. That its second and final charter of 1674 seems to exclude the Orinoco from the territorial possessions of the Company.


The original charter of the Dutch West India, in 1621, granted in its second article:

That, further, the aforesaid Company in our name and by our authority, within the limits hereinbefore prescribed, shall have power to make contracts, leagues, and alliances with the princes and natives of the lands therein comprised, as well as to build there any fortresses and defenses, to [provide] governors, troops, and officers of justice, and for other necessary services, for the preservation of the places, maintenance of good order, police, and justice. And, likewise, for the furtherance of trade, to appoint, transfer, remove, or replace, as according to circumstances they shall find proper. Furthermore, they may promote the settlement of fruitful and uninhabited districts, and do everything that the service of these lands (and the) profit and increase of trade shall demand. And they of the Company shall regularly communicate with us, and shall report such contracts and alliances as they shall have made with the aforesaid princes and nations, together with the conditions of the fortresses, defenses, and settlements by them undertaken.

The third article of the charter provides that the States-General shall confirm and commission all governors, and that these, as also the vice-governors, commanders, and officers shall swear allegiance to the States as well as to the Company.

By the fifth article the States promise to supply such troops as may be necessary -- these, however, are to be paid by the Company.

Such are the provisions creating and limiting the territorial jurisdiction of the West India Company. They were never changed. Even in the new charter of 1674 these articles were copied outright, with but one or two corrections in diction.

But as early as 1629 the States-General found it wise to prescribe more definitely for the government of the new territories. On October 13 of that year they issued an "Order of Government, both as to policy and as to justice, in the places conquered and to conquer in the West Indies," explaining that "it has been made clear to us on behalf of the West India Company that for the better direction of affairs it would be useful and serviceable to the said Company that under our authority there should be enacted by the said chartered Company a definite system of government, both as to policy and as to justice, in the place or places (with God's help) to be conquered."

The provision for the protection of the vested rights of "Spaniards, Portuguese, and natives" -- the phrase occurs more than once -- suggests where these conquests were to be made.

"The councilors," says the fifteenth article, "shall further seek at every opportunity to establish friendship, trade, and commerce with neighboring and near-by lords and peoples, also alliances and compacts, to the damage and enfeebling of the King of Spain, his subjects and allies, and to the best furtherance of the common weal of the Company, making the aforesaid treaties on behalf and in the name of the High and Mighty Lords the States-General and of the West India Company; and shall, regarding all these, take first and foremost the advice of the General and Governor." All property of the Jesuits, or of "other convents or colleges of clergy, of what order soever" is to be seized and confiscated to the profit of the Company, just as if belonging to the King of Spain. The twenty-first article provides for "any places, within the limits, situate on the Continent or on the adjoining islands" which may "come to be conquered and possessed."

Again, on April 26, 1634, the States-General, "by advice and deliberation of the Directors of the general chartered West India Company," issued an "Order and. Regulation" -- this time "regarding the settlement and cultivation of the lands and places by the aforesaid Company conquered in Brazil." In this they provide minutely for the government of all such as shall go to dwell "within the limits of the lands and places conquered or yet to conquer in Brazil by the chartered West India Company."

Still again, on August 28, 1636, they further provided for the government of the "conquered captaincies, cities, forts, and places in Brazil;" and yet again, on October 12, 1645, when the capstone was put on their structure by the creation of "the Supreme Government in the lands of Brazil already through God's blessing conquered, or yet to conquer."

For the Government of Guiana, or of any of its colonies, no enactment of the States-General is to be found. The control of its possessions in this quarter seems left wholly to the Company. And in none of these enactments of the States-General, nor yet in any of the explicit codes issued by the Company for the instruction of its servants, have I found any provision for the trade outposts which play such a part in the colonial records of Guiana, or any intimation as to the territorial claims involved in the establishment of these.

It is, however, worth adding that when in 1665, in the controversy over New Netherland, the British ambassador argued that the West India Company's charter was more limited than the patents granted by the English King, the States-General replied that "that granted to the West India Company is as ample as any which the King hath granted or can grant. And the Company is expressly authorized by the second article of its charter to plant colonies, occupy lands, and furthermore, as fully and amply as any patent from the King can extend, and such is expressly declared under the Great Seal of the State."

From this survey of the charters of the Company and of the other legislation of the States-General it appears, then, that the Dutch West India Company was charged with ample territorial jurisdiction in all districts which it should conquer or colonize within the limits of its charter. But it does not appear that this territorial jurisdiction was made coextensive with these limits, or that there was ever mention of the river Orinoco in connection therewith.

But there further exist, among the acts of the States-General, certain grants of territory on the on the Guiana coast, made by the West India Company with the concurrence of the States or by the States at the instance of the Company. It remains to ask what of territorial jurisdiction or boundary may be specified or implied by these.

Thus, in 1660, the Dutch West India Company conceded to the German Count of Hanau a strip 30 Dutch miles broad, which they have been quoted as granting "from their territory of Guayana, situated between the river Orinoco and the river Amazons." Unfortunately a careful study of this grant, whose full text is given by the Dutch historian Hartsinck, and which is translated in full by Rodway and Watt, the English historians of British Guiana, fails to find in the document any such clause as that quoted. The phrase actually used is, indeed, full of suggestion of another sort. For the grant reads: . . . "A piece of land situated on the Wild Coast of America, between the river Oronoque and the river of the Amazons," adding the condition, "which His Excellency will be entitled to select, provided that he keeps at least six Dutch miles from other colonies there established or founded by the said chartered West India Company or with its consent. . ."

That the grant implies that the whole Wild Coast was counted by the West India Company open to Dutch colonization can not be questioned. It seems to imply also that there were still on that coast unoccupied stretches of 30 Dutch miles in breadth lying at least six miles distant from the Dutch establishments of Surinam, Berbice, and Essequibo; and that such a stretch might by the Dutch be granted outright, even to a foreigner. But it does not assert an exclusive Dutch right to colonize that coast; and it must in this connection be constantly remembered that throughout most of this century the Governments of Great Britain and of France were also freely granting patents of territory on the Guiana coast, and there has been found no record of the slightest Dutch protest against it. Great Britain was, indeed, earlier in the field than the Dutch, the colonies of Leigh and Harcourt antedating any known Dutch settlement on this coast, and the patent to Harcourt covering the whole territory from the Amazon to the Essequibo. It should be added that the colony of the Count of Hanau was a flash in the pan, no attempt ever being made to establish it.

Among the published acts of the States-General I have as yet been able to lay hand on only one other grant of territory in this region. It is a contemporary impression of a "Charter from the High and Mighty States-General relating to the Colony on the Wild Coast of America, under the leadership of the Knight Balthazar Gerbier, Baron Douvily; printed in the year of our Lord 1659." It tells how, on November 15, 1658, the States conceded to the baron "as Patroon the right to erect a colony on the continental Wild Coast of America, in the district of the charter granted to the West India Company. . ." But neither in the "articles of liberties and exemptions," granted him by the Company, nor in the appended "advertisement" setting forth enthusiastically the beauties of the new land, is there any other definition of its location and limits than that it is to be "on the continental Wild Coast of the West Indies, of five miles in breadth, or along the seashore, and further so far inland as shall by the colonists come to be cultivated on the Wild Coast of America, with jurisdiction over the bays lying within the colony, and half [the jurisdiction over] the rivers on the two sides of the aforementioned colony. . ."

From the terms of these grants may unquestionably be inferred the assumption by the Dutch Government of a right to plant colonies, either directly or through the West India Company, in the district known as the Wild Coast. There is, however, in none of them anything to suggest that this was counted exclusively a Dutch right; nor is there in them any claim of sovereignty over this coast as a whole.

I hope for much more from the unprinted records of the Company, which by your instructions I am to examine in Europe.

Respectfully submitted.

George L. Burr.

Washington, May, 1896

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In the course of the investigation by the United States Venezuelan Boundary Commission, Professor Franklin Jameson prepared a study of Spanish and Dutch settlements in the disputed territory before 1648. This report, which to an extent rebutted some of the historical accounts of Dutch occupation of the disputed territory, previously prepared by the British, is reproduced below:


To the Members of the Venezuela-Guiana Boundary Commission.

GENTLEMEN: You have asked me to investigate and report upon "the history of the Dutch and Spanish settlements prior to 1648, including the Spanish missions and the Dutch trading posts and the examination of their respective characters, concluding with a succinct statement as to the actual location, extent, and character of those settlements at the date of the Treaty of Munster."

At the date on which this report is finished (June 11, 1896) I have not received from Professor Burr any information arising from the researches which he has just begun in the Dutch archives; no British "Blue Book" of documents and correspondence has appeared, subsequent to that headed "Venezuela, No. 1 (1896);" nor have I seen any documents emanating from the Venezuelan Government and relating to the above question of later date than those which in the present year were reprinted from "Senate Executive Document No. 226, Fiftieth Congress, first session." Information may soon come from any of these sources of such a character as to modify the conclusions herein expressed. The present report is based upon such printed materials as are accessible in the chief libraries of Washington, New York, Providence, and Boston.

The topic propounded may, for convenience and without injury, be divided into the five following sections or subsidiary questions:

I. The history of Santo Thome to 1648.

II. The question concerning other Spanish settlements.

III. The question of the missions.

IV. The question concerning Dutch posts on the Essequibo and the rivers to the north of it.

V. The question of Point Barima.

The accessible facts respecting these will be discussed in the above order.


Though no one of the sites successively occupied by this city falls within the disputed territory, it nevertheless seems necessary to treat of its early history, in order to [do] a thorough investigation of the second and third questions mentioned above. Even the proper dating of its foundation has a bearing upon these subsequent inquiries, as has also the statement of its character at different periods.

The town of Santo Thome de la Guayana was founded by Antonio de Berrio, probably in 1591 or 1592. For this statement a sufficient authority is that of Fray Pedro Simon, whose "Noticias Historiales de las Conquistas de Tierra Firme en las Indias Occidentales," Cuenca, 1627, must be often cited in this report. Fray Pedro Simon was provincial of the Franciscans at Bogota, and wrote this volume in 1623 ("Noticias," p. 661), so that he is much more nearly a contemporary than any of those who have suggested other dates. His book is also of excellent quality, and rests, as we know, in part on respectable manuscript authorities of earlier date.

The various other dates stated require but a passing notice. Schomburgk, in his edition of Raleigh's "Discoverie" (p. 79, note 2), says that "Diego de Ordaz found in 1531-32 at the mouth of the Caroni a settlement called Caroao or Carao, which afterwards received the name of Santo Thomas de Guayana." Netscher, in his "Geschiedenis van de Kolonien Essequebo, etc". (p. 20), says that Ordaz founded Santo Thome about 1532. Both statements are very likely derived from a similar remark in Gumilla, "El Orinoco Ilustrado" (p. 9, edition of 1741). But what Simon says (p. 121) is that Ordaz, being at Paria, "sailed to the other bank of the river, and landed at a village called Carao, whose natives received him kindly." This is a different place, and no settlement by Ordaz is mentioned. Gumilla in the same passage places the voyages of Raleigh and Keymis in 1545 and 1546 instead of 1595 and 1596. On the next page he declares that the town was destroyed in 1579 by the Dutch captain Janson; and the assertion is repeated by Caulin in his "Historia Coro-graphica Natural y Evangelica de la Nueva Andalucia," 1779 (p. 9), by Hartsinck, by Humboldt, "Voyage aux Regions Equinoxiales" (Vol. II, p. 638), and by Rodway, "Annals of Guiana" (p. 14). The reference is to the expedition of Admiral Adriaen Janszoon Pater, the date of which is certainly 1629. . ; and the whole notion of Santo Thome's existing 1579 doubtless rests, as Professor Burr conjectures, on a misreading of MDLXXIX for MDCXXIX. For the statement of Depons, "Voyage a Terre Ferme" (Vol. III, p. 254), that Berrio founded the town in 1586, I find no authority.

The settlement thus founded in 1591 or 1592 remained for some time a feeble one. Late in 1594 Berrio sent Domingo de Vera to Spain for recruits. (Keymis, "A Relation of the Second Voyage to Guiana," 1596, p. 9; Simon, p. 597). Before he returned Sir Walter Raleigh made his celebrated first voyage up the Orinoco, described in his "Discoverie" of 1595. In that book he makes no mention of Santo Thome, though he sailed up the Orinoco to the Caroni. This does not prove that the town was not there, but that he had reasons for not mentioning it; for Keymis, "Relation of the Second Voyage": (p. 6), implies that Raleigh had found and destroyed a settlement when he says: "I answered him, that at our departure we left no Spaniards alive to annoy them." Raleigh himself, in his "Apology" (edition of 1650, p. 29), speaks in 1618 of the Santo Thome of that time as distant so many miles "from the place where Antonio Berro the first Governour, by me taken in my first discovery, had attempted to plant;" and "Newes of Sir Walter Rauleigh," London, 1618, says (pp.42, 43): "Now an entrance in former yeares our Generall did make, as you have read, with that successe that not many before or since hath ever equalled and displanted the first garrisons." At some time in this year 1595 Captain Velasco, who held Trinidad, for Francisco de Vides, governor of Cumana, sent Captain Felipe de Santiago with twenty men to take Santo Thome from Berrio, "taking advantage," says Simon, "of the small number of men whom Berrio had." ("Noticias," p. 600).

Santiago did not carry out his purpose. This encounter between Berrio and Santiago on the banks of the Orinoco may have taken place in the spring of 1595, as represented by Simon, or in the autumn, as represented on page 51 of the British "Blue Book", in the translation of the dispatch of Don Roque de Montes. In any case these passages, confirmed by the statement of Keymis on page 9 of his tract, show that Vides and his partisans had pretensions hostile to those of Berrio. Raleigh in his "Discoverie" (ed. Schomburgk, p. 37) says that Vides and Berrio "were become mortall enimies." Therefore the absence of all mention of Santo Thome from the dispatch of Don Roque de Montes to the King of Spain does not, as is implied on page 4 of the British"Blue Book," line 17 to 20, disprove its existence.

If the town was destroyed by Raleigh, it was shortly reenforced by Domingo de Vera, who brought from Spain a large body of settlers for Trinidad and the Orinoco (Simon, p. 600; Keymis, p. 9). The population of the place rose to 400 men, women, and children. Of 300 who set out for Manoa, nearly all were destroyed. Reenforcements came from Trinidad, but the governor, after a period of sufferings, permitted any who chose to withdraw. (Simon, pp. 606-614.) Keymis, who visited the Orinoco in April, 1596, states (pp. 15, 16) that the Spaniards then had at the mouth of the Caroni a "Rancheria of some twentie or thirtie houses," which Berrio intended to fortify with ordnance, and in which he had about 55 men.

A. Cabeliau, "commies-general" of the Dutch ship " Zeeridder", who visited Santo Thome in the summer of 1598, and whose report to the States-General is printed as an appendix to Volume I of J. K. J. de Jonge's "De Opkomst van het Nederlandsch Gezag in Oost-Indie," 1862, found there a force of 60 cavalry-men and 100 musketeers.

That the settlement was still small in 1611 is evident from a letter of Sir Thomas Roe to the Lord Treasurer Salisbury, dated at Port of Spain, February 28, 1611, and summarized in the "Calendar of State Papers, Colonial." (Vol I, p. 11.) He says that he has sailed all along the Wild Coast (i.e., Guiana); that it is understood that the King of Spain intends to plant the Orinoco; that men, cattle, and horses are arriving daily to be employed in fortifying the place, raising a new city, and in the conquest of Guiana; but that he (Roe) thinks all will be turned to smoke.

The town had not grown in importance when Raleigh's men destroyed it at the time of his last expedition. In his letter to Carew, 1618 (Edwards's "Raleigh," Vol. II, p. 377), he says: "Her Majesties death, and my lounge imprisonment, gave time to the Spannierds to sett upp a towne of staks, covered with leaves of trees, upon the bancks of Oronoque, which they called 'St. Thome.'" In his "Apology" (pp. 29, 52) he calls it "a Spanish towne or rather a village," "a Wooden Towne, and a kind of a Forte." The leading, and contemporary, Spanish authority makes hardly more of it. Don Diego de Palomeque, says Simon, had 57 men; there was a fort, six cannon, a church, a belfry, a convent of Franciscans. ("Noticias," pp. 637, 640, 643.)

The inhabitants began rebuilding at once upon the withdrawal of Raleigh's men, at the end of January, 1618 (Simon, p. 659), constructing now more than one church, and a convent of Dominicans as well as of Franciscans. A document cited in Caulin ("Historia Coro-graphica," pp. 180, 181) relating to the latter convent shows the place inhabited in April of that year. It existed when Jan de Laet wrote the first edition of his "Beschryvinghe van West Indien," that of 1625, for he gives (p. 487) elaborate sailing directions for the voyage from the Essequibo to Santo Thome, on the authority of a journal which has come int his hands; so also in his edition of 1630 (pp. 591, 592). In both he states that the town had a large tobacco trade with the English and the Dutch, insomuch that sometimes eight or nine Dutch ships or more were in the river at one time. In his Latin edition of 1633 ("Novus Orbis," etc., p. 659) he speaks of this in the past tense, as having existed until the King of Spain forbade under severe penalties such trading with foreigners.

In December, 1629, Santo Thome was attacked by a naval force of the Dutch West India Company under Admiral Adriaen Janszoon Pater, and was sacked and burned; it then consisted of 130 or 140 houses, of slight construction, a church, and a Franciscan convent. (De Laet, "Beschryvinghe van West Indien," edition of 1630, p. 593, and his "Historie ofte Jaerlyck Verhael," p. 166.) According to Document No. 12 in the British "Blue Book," page 56, the place was again taken, sacked, and burned in 1637 by the Dutch and Caribs.

Finally, it appears from Father Pelleprat's "Relation des Missions des PP. De la Compagnie de Jesus dans les Isles, et dans la terre firme de l'Amerique Meridionale," Paris, 1655 (pt. 2, p.9), that at the time of the arrival of Father Denis Mesland in Spanish Guiana, in 1653, Santo Thome had very few inhabitants.

It is evident, then, that at no time between 1591 and 1648 was this Spanish town an important center of population, such as would naturally send out offshoots into the surrounding territory. On the contrary, it must have been, during nearly all these years, a feeble settlement, maintaining its own existence with some difficulty. It is evident also that one's search for evidence of other settlements in Spanish Guiana need not be extended backward beyond the year 1591.

It does not appear necessary to enter at length into the vexed and difficult question of the various sites of Santo Thome. Putting together the statements of Simon (pp. 596, 608), of Keymis (p. 15), and of Cabeliau (in De Jonge, Vol. I, p. 157), it seems clear that the original town was, from 1591 to 1598, at the mouth of the Caroni. Although Simon represents it as still there at the time of Raleigh's expedition of 1618 (p. 641), Raleigh's own expression ("Apology," p. 29) that it was now "twenty mile distant from the place where Antonio Berro . . . had attempted to plant," accords better with all the details which have come down to us respecting the English assault and occupation. These conclusions are also those of Mr. S. R. Gardiner, in his "Prince Charles and the Spanish Marriage." (Vol: I, p. 54.) As to the site to which Fernando de Berrio removed the town in 1619, or the site or sites subsequently occupied, down to 1648, it is difficult, if not impossible, to reconcile or to make definite all the indications given by Simon (pp. 666, 670), De Laet ("Jaerlyck Verhael," p. 166), Gumilla (p. 11), and Caulin (pp. 59, 191), though the last two agree in placing it at the site which it occupied in the middle of the last century. It is sufficient to say that no writer places it at any time at a lower point than this, so that its occupation was never an occupation of a portion of the territory now disputed. Its history has been given for other reasons.


There is no perfect evidence of the existence before 1648 of any other Spanish settlement than Santo Thome in the region between the Orinoco and the Essequibo, or of any other than a temporary occupation of any position in that region.

I know of no authority for the statement made by Senor Fortique (Sen. Ex. Doc. No. 226, 50th Cong., 1st Sess., p. 29) that "in 1591 the enemies of Spain found towns to ruin in Guiana. The evidence regarding Spanish occupation in Guiana after that date may be stated as follows: An appendix to Raleigh's "Discoverie" contains abstracts of certain Spanish letters from the New World which were taken at sea by Capt. George Popham in 1593 or 1594, and were delivered by him to the Privy Council. Among these is an account which purports to have been sent to the King of Spain to inform him of the formal act by which Domingo de Vera, maestro de campo to Antonio de Berrio, had taken possession for Spain of lands south of the Orinoco. The document is to be found at pages 123-128 in Schomburgk's edition of Raleigh, and is summarized on page 383 of the "Calendars of State Papers, Domestic, 1591-1594". It is dated from the river Orinoco, "in the principall part thereof called Warismero, the 23 of Aprill 1593," and relates, with the signatures of Domingo de Vera and of Rodrigo de Caranca, register of the forces, how Vera had taken formal possession of the land in the name of the King and of Berrio, the governor, at Warismero; then, under successive dates extending to the 4th of May, how the same was done at three points lying inland from the river, the first two leagues inland, the second Carapana's town, the third Ropiawari's town (apparently all these lay near the mouth of the Caroni), crosses being erected and the consent of these chieftains being understood to be given. The march is then traced for a week more, 10 leagues (40 miles) inland from Topiawari's town, but with no statement as to taking possession beyond that place. The document is no doubt substantially authentic, but it indicates possession only as a formal act performed upon the line of march.

In 1595 Raleigh, in his "Discoverie" (Schomburgk's ed., p. 39) says that Berrio "alwaies appointed 10 Spaniards to reside in Carapanas towne" (see also p. 56), while Keymis in 1596 speaks of him as going to Carapana with 15 men, and also of 10 Spaniards as abiding in Winicapora (pp. 10, 18). But Carapana was no doubt very near S. Thome, and the Winicapora is probably the Cano Jose, an affluent of the Orinoco only a few miles long. These phrases, therefore, do not indicate any occupation of portions of the territory now disputed. Upon the same page with the passage just mentioned Raleigh says that the Spaniards "used in Canoas to passe to the rivers of Barema, Pawroma, and Dissequebe, which are on the south side of the mouth of Orenoque, and there buie women and children from the Canibals," but says nothing to support Senor Fortique's statement that Raleigh wrote that the Spaniards "occupied the rivers Barima, Moroco, and Pumaron" or "that their domination extended to the Essequibo." (Sen. Ex. Doc. No. 226, 50th Cong., 1st Sess., p. 29.)

Simon (pp. 606, 607) represents the Spaniards of S. Thome, soon after the arrival of the reinforcements under Domingo de Vera, as proceeding to make excursions in the vicinity, trading with the natives, but not as making any other settlements. He also narrates at length (pp. 608-610) the fortunes of a body of 300 who set out for Manoa, but of whom all but about 30 were soon destroyed by the Indians, and whose expedition effected nothing.

Keymis, against a marginal date of September (1595), mentions another Spanish expedition, his account of which should be cited textually, because of the inferences which, as will be seen, have been drawn from distorted versions of it. He says (pp. 8, 9): "In Moruga it was, that they (the Spaniards) hunted Wareo and his people, about halfe a yeere since. . . They were not of Anthonie de Berreo his companie, that followed this chase, but were the Spaniardes of Marguerita, and the Caraccas." It is sufficient for the present purpose to say that this is no evidence of Spanish occupation of the Moruca.

In April, 1597, Leonard Berrie, who conducted a third voyage for Raleigh, was in the Corentyn. Thomas Masham, who accompanied him and wrote the account of the voyage in Hakluyt (edition of 1811, Vol. IV), says that he there learned from an Indian that in the Essequibo "there were some 300 Spaniards, which for the most part now are destroyed and dead" (p.193). On May 4, he says (p. 194): "It was reported that the Spaniardes were gonne out of Desekebe, which was not so. . . The next night wee had newes brought . . . that there were tenned canoas of Spaniardes in the mouth of Corintine . . . who went along the coast to buy bread and other victuals for them in Orenoque, Marowgo, and Deskebe." The phrase must probably be interpreted as meaning "for those who were in the Orinoco, the Moruca, and the Essequibo." Under this interpretation the passages cited from Masham seem to imply a temporary occupation in the Essequibo at this time. This may be the explanation of the emblem carved in stone over the gate of the fort at Kykoveral, which Hartsinck ("Beschrijvinge van Guiana," p. 262) declared to be the Portuguese arms, and to be evidence of previous Portuguese occupation, but which Netscher (p. 337), who has seen it, declares to be simply a cross, and to be more probably of Spanish origin, since the Portuguese hardly came so far west.

The occupation, if there was a distinct occupation, was temporary. De Laet, in his "Beschryvinghe van West Indien," edition of 1625, says (p. 474): "The Spaniards had here (i.e., in the Essequibo) some people in the year 1591 (he means 1597) according to the account of Thomas Masham, but they seem to have come to nothing again." In his edition of 1630 he says, more decidedly, that the settlement had come to naught (p. 577).

But of more importance are the observations of A. Cabeliau in 1598, already mentioned. His narrative is detailed, clear, and businesslike. In company with two other ships that he found on the Guiana coast, he visited all the rivers between the Wiapoco and the Orinoco; he names, among others, the Essequibo, the Pomeroon, and the Moruca. Into these rivers they did not sail, partly "because there was not much to get there, as the Indians informed us. . . ; so they only coasted along the land in this part, in order to have knowledge of it. As Cabeliau traded freely and eagerly with the Spaniards of Santo Thome, and was given the guidance of the governor's miner in searching around there for Raleigh's mines, it is extremely unlikely that when he coasted along past the Essequibo with the above-mentioned impressions of it, there were any Spaniards there. Remarks which he makes when speaking of the soldiers at Santo Thome, in a passage already adduced, have an important bearing on the question of other settlements. He says that these soldiers "daily seek to conquer the gold-rich Guiana, but can not do it by means of the forts as yet built there, not by any means of friendship, because the nation called Caribs violently oppose them every day . . . , and the Spaniards, seeing that they can not win anything there, have begun to make a road, about six days' journey south of the river Orinoco, in the mountain range of Guiana, through the rocks and hill, about 1,600 stadia long, . . . and think by these means to conquer it. . ." (The passage is on De Jonge, "Opkomst," etc., Vol. I, p. 156-159.) If a road 200 English miles long is meant, it would, if extended in certain directions southerly from the Orinoco at Santo Thome, run into the territory now in dispute.

The letter of Sir Thomas Roe, already mentioned, may fairly be thought to indicate that there were no Spanish settlements, or none of any account, on the coast of Guiana in 1611.

Raleigh, in a letter supposed to be of the year 1612 (Edwards's "Raleigh," Vol. II, p. 338), speaks of a captain "who came from Orenoke this last spring, and was oftentimes ashore att St. Thome, where the Spaniards inhabite," words which seem to imply that they at that time had but that one settlement. In his journal of his voyage of 1617 (Schomburgk's Raleigh's "Discoverie," p. 203), he says of the Essequibo that "the Spaniards of Orenoke had dayly recourse" to it. But in that journal and in the other literature of this last voyage nothing points to any settlements of Spaniards in this region except at Santo Thome, while many passages convey an implication that that was their sole town. One instance to the contrary should be mentioned. In "A declaration of the Demeanor and Cariage of Sir Walter Raleigh, Knight, as well in his Voyage, as in, and sithence his Returne," which King James I published in 1618 for public justification of his course, "although Kings be not bound to give Account of their Actions to any but God alone," we read (on p. 30), "And yet it is confessed by all, that the parts of Guiana, where St. Thome was scituate, were planted by Spaniards, who had divers Townes in the same tract, with some Indians intermixed, that are their Vasslas." But it is doubtful whether great weight should be given to this testimony.

On the other hand, it is observable that Don Diego de Palomeque, on the approach of Raleigh's men, sent a man "to warn and call those who were on their estates (estancias) at more or less distance from the city" (Simon, p. 637), but that he did not send for remoter aid. Those who fled from the town had apparently no neighboring settlement to which to flee (p. 641). When the authorities of the town, Palomeque being dead, sent for aid, it was to Bogota (p. 650). Simon prints at length (pp. 651-658) the instructions which Don Juan de Borja, president of the audiencia of Santa Fe, gave to Captain Diego Martin, whom, in response to this appeal, he sent with a force for the succor of Santo Thome -- instructions dated May 28, 1618. Among all the directions which he gives him for his guidance in the performance of this remote and uncertain task, there is no hint of the existence in Guiana of any other Spanish settlements than Santo Thome, although, if there had been any such, the president would surely have been anxious for their protection also.

Late in 1619 or early in 1620, the Arwaccas having slain six Spaniards, Fernando de Berrrio sent out Captain Gernonimo de Grados from Santo Thome to chastise them. He went into the Barima and compelled the natives to submit and to give him provisions; then into the Essequibo, where he did the same; then into the "Verius." At the mouth of the Essequibo, on his return thither, he found six foreign ships . . . manned by Englishmen, who seized him and sent word to Berrio to ransom him for 30 quintals of tobacco, March, 1620. In Simon's account of this affair ("Noticias," pp. 664-666) there is no hint of any Spanish town in these rivers, and it appears most probably from the narrative that there was not. In speaking of Pater's expedition of 1629 De Laet ("Jaerlyck Verhael," pp. 165, 166) coveys the same implication, making no mention of any other Spanish town than S. Thome, though he gives a minute account of almost every day's progress of the fleet. The same is true of the various editions of his description of the West Indies, Dutch, Latin, and French, of 1625, 1630, 1633, and 1640. He mentions no settlements of Europeans from the Essequibo to Santo Thome, though he gives elaborate sailing direction for the whole route (pp. 487, 591, 659, 601 of the respective editions). Senor Fortique's statement ("Senate Executive Document No. 226," p. 29) that De Laet found the Moroco and the Pumeron occupied by Spain before 1648 is, so far as I know, quite without foundation.

In a document of the year 1633 or 1634 the Dutch West India Company, according to the translation in the "New York Colonial Documents" (Vol. I, p. 66), say: "From New Spain, eastward, . . . to beyond Trinidad . . . are all settled by Spaniards; except next to these, the Guiana country, which we call the Wild Coast; this coast and divers rivers are inhabited by free Indians, and still unsettled; . . . but . . . all the trade which exists there, can easily be carried on with two or three ships a year."

Heylin's "Cosmographie," 1652, a book which enjoyed a certain authority, speaks of Santo Thome as "the only Town of all Guiana possessed by the Spaniards."


Even if there were, within the period before the date of the Treaty of Munster, no occupation of Guiana by Spanish lay-men, it would be entirely possible that settlements of a character to give title under that treaty might have been founded by missionaries. It therefore becomes necessary to examine all the evidences of missionary activity in the Orinoco region between 1591 and 1648.

Caulin ("Historia Coro-graphica," p. 9) declares that Fathers Llauri and Vergara came into the province of Guayana in 1576 and labored there until 1579, when they were obliged to withdraw by reason of the invasion effected by the Dutch captain Janson. But the expedition of Janson (Adriaen Janszoon Pater) occurred in 1629, as has already been seen, and the mission of Fathers Llauri and Vergara, as will be shown on better evidence later, began in 1664.

Fray Pedro Simon, who 30 years later was provincial of the Franciscans in the province of Santa Fe, to which Santo Thome originally belonged, tells us ("Noticias," p. 606) that a Franciscan, Fray Domingo de Santa Agueda, accompanied Berrio in all his discoveries and in the founding of Santo Thome. Another friar, Francisco Carillo, accompanied Domingo de Vera in his march of 1593, according to the Popham document already cited. (Schomburgk's Raleigh's "Discoverie," pp. 124, 125; "Calendar of State Papers, Domestic, 1591-1594," p. 383.)

When Domingo de Vera in 1595, or perhaps in 1596, returned from Spain with reenforcements for Berrio, he brought with him ten clergymen and twelve Franciscan friars. Two of the secular clergy and five of the friars went at once to Santo Thome, where Fray Domingo de Santa Agueda welcomed the five Franciscans into a convent which he had founded, "making six," says Simon explicitly. ("Noticias," pp. 599, 606.) It appears from this that Santo Thome had not hitherto been a center of missionary propaganda, and there is no evidence that any friars were in Guiana outside of the town. The expedition toward Manoa was accompanied by four friars, but its fatal termination precludes the thought of their having then established mission stations.

Simon, in his "Noticias Historialaes" (p. 614), describes the subsequent fortunes of eight of these ecclesiastics. Two of them, permitted by Berrio to withdraw at the time of depression ensuing upon the Manoa expedition, perished on their way in the delta of the Orinoco; two others in their voyage from Trinidad to Margarita; three others succeeded in returning to Europe, and three, all Franciscans, made their way up to New Granada. Simon would surely obtain information directly or indirectly from these, living as he did at the capital of that kingdom, and, as a good Franciscan, would not have failed to make mention of any extensive missionary labors on their part. But he makes no mention of any missions in Guiana outside of Santo Thome down to the close of this volume, which was written in 1623.

In 1617 the convent was transferred from the jurisdiction of the province of Santa Fe to that of the province of Caracas, and on April 25, 1618, the transfer was effected at Santo Thome. (Caulin, "Historia Coro-graphica," p. 180.) At the time of the attack by Raleigh's men in January of that year, Padre Francisco de Leuro, who seems to have been both parish priest and head of the convent, was slain. The authorities of the town, in their appeal to the audiencia of Santa Fe, say that they have but one priest remaining. In the subsequent rebuilding both a Franciscan and a Dominican convent were erected; but there was none but the Franciscan there at the time when the town was assailed by Pater in 1629. (Simon, pp. 650, 659; De Laet, "Beschryvinghe van West Indien," edition of 1630, p. 593; "Novus Orbis," 1633, p. 659; "Nouveau Monde," 1640, p. 601.)

I have found no other indications of Franciscan activity in Guiana than these, which carry with them no implication of the existence of other missionary stations than Santo Thome itself.

In the Jesuit literature of the time and of subsequent years ("Relations," "Litterae Annuae," etc.) I have found but one indication of the presence of a Jesuit in Spanish Guiana before 1648, and I understood Professor Burr that he had found no other, in the libraries in which he had searched, than this same one. In the "Annuae Litterae" for 1652, namely, in the portion devoted to the occurrences in the province of New Granada from 1642 to 1652, inclusive, one section (p. 185) consists of a list of those who have died. Among the entries we find this: "In the Mission of Guayana, where scarcely any harvest responds to labor, however distressing, Father Andreas Ignatius, head of that mission, a man of obedience and heroic zeal, and a professed of the four vows, fell at that glorious and most destitute post..." Of this Father Andreas Ignatius I have found no other trace in Jesuit literature.

The phrase (head of Mission) . . . above, would naturally be held to imply the presence of several Jesuits in Guiana at this time. Yet when, September 29, 1652, one who is called "Dom Frantique," an officer of the governor Don Martin de Mendoza, writes to Father Dionysius Meland (or Mesland) reinforcing the governor's invitation to him to come over from the French possessions to Santo Thome, he says: "We have here no member of a religious order. . ."

Cassani, the historian of the Jesuit province, begins the story of Jesuit activity in the regions of the lower Orinoco with the year 1659. He relates how in that year Father Antonio de Monteverde, a Fleming, came from Cayenne to the Orinoco and then made his way up the river to the mission of his order in the llanos. He persuaded the provincial authorities in Santa Fe to take religious possession of the lower Orinoco, and Fathers Vergara and Llauri were sent thither in 1664. Monteverde and Mesland, "a tried man," were in the same year assigned to the mission in the llanos. Llauri and Vergara found the Spaniards of Guiana in a condition of spiritual destitution. (Cassani, "Historia de la Provincia de la Compania de Jesus del Nuevo Reyno de Granada," 1741, pp. 81, 82, 110, 114, 128.) Gumilla, in his "El Orinoco Ilustrado" (p. 11), also a Jesuit, has no earlier origin of Jesuit missions in Guiana to suggest.

There is, then, among the accessible materials respecting the Jesuits no evidence to support the notion of settlements established by them in the territory now disputed. Of other than Franciscan and Jesuit missionary efforts in the region I have found no trace save the mention of the Dominican convent, apparently short-lived, at Santo Thome.


It seems susceptible of demonstration that the Dutch had no settlements in the northwestern portions of Guiana before the beginning of the seventeenth century.

Hartsinck, "Beschrijving van Guyana," says that as early as 1580 Dutch vessels traded along this coast. But the remark is no doubt due, as De Jonge has remarked ("Opkomst van het Nederlandsch Gezag," Vol. I, p. 46, note), to a misconstruction of a remark of De Laet in his "Beschryvinghe van West Indien" (on p. 487 in the edition of 1625). It is not necessary to explain the misconstruction, as neither Hartsinck nor De Laet refers to settlement, but only to voyaging and trade.

The British "Blue Book" (p. 4) declares that "there is abundant evidence coming from Spanish sources that during the latter half of the century, prior to 1590, the Dutch had established themselves on the coast of Guiana." No such evidence is brought forward, however, and the marginal reference is a general reference to the entire correspondence of a whole province with the Spanish Government during a period of a hundred and five years. Until such evidence is adduced, the statement must, on grounds which will presently be mentioned, be regarded as of hardly more weight than that which preceded it in the sentence, that "Dutch appear to have been the first who, in the early part of the sixteenth century, turned their attention to Guiana."

Not better supported is statement immediately following upon the same page, that "in 1595 the English explorer, Capt. Charles Leigh, found the Dutch established near the mouth of the Orinoco, a fact which is confirmed from Spanish sources." The Spanish sources are neither quoted nor mentioned. The marginal reference is to Purchas's Pilgrims, pages 1250-1255. Now, the letter of Charles Leigh printed of page 1254 of Purchas is dated July 2, 1604, and relates to his voyage of that time, and not to that of 1595, from which no letter is known to have survived. It speaks of Dutchmen in the river Wiapoco, far to the eastward of the disputed territory, and not in the Orinoco. Moreover, it says simply: "At my arrival here I found a Dutch Shippe, and sithence here hath arrived another, they buy up all the Flaxe they can get." No mention of any Dutch settlement is made, either here or elsewhere in Leigh's letter. Neither is any such story to be found in the narratives of Leigh's companions. Their accounts agree with his. "This Sims," says Master John Wilson, "was Masters mate of the Holland Shippe which Captain Lee found in the River of Wiapoco at his first at his first arrivall there" (p. 1264).

Next in chronological order comes the statement, repeated in "Senate Executive Document No. 226," that in 1596 the Spaniards drove out a body of Dutch colonists from the Essequibo. This is most likely derived from Hartsinck, who says that the Netherlanders must have settled early on the Essequibo, for the Spaniards already in 1596 drove them out from there. . . The genealogy of this statement can apparently be traced. Hartsinck gives as his authority Martiniere's "Grand Dictionnaire Geographique," 1738. Martiniere probably got it from some edition of Blaeu. Blaeu got if from De Laet, and De Laet from Keymis. But what Keymis said was ("Relation of the Second Voyage," 1596, pp. 8, 9): "In Moruga it was, that they (the Spaniards) hunted Wareo and his people, about halfe a yeere since [margin, September]. . . They were not of Anthonie de Berreo his companie, that followed this chase, but were the Spaniardes of Margerita and the Caraccas." In other words, certain Spaniards drove out certain Indians from the district of the Moruca. Jan de Laet's account of the affair is, in his edition of 1625, the following (p. 475): . . "the Moruca, where the Spaniards of Margarita and Caracas drove out the savages in the year 1596, with the help of the Arwacas. " His second edition, 1630, reads the same (p. 577), save for a gloss upon the name Moruga, "Moruga, or, as our people call it, Ammegore." In his Latin edition of 1633 he gives the same account (p. 649)... .

From this harmless rhetorical addition about "the homes of their ancestors" the transition was easy to the text as we find it in the French edition of 1640 (p. 590). . . : "Moruga (which our people call Ammegore) the inhabitants of which the Spaniards from Margarita and Caracas drove out from the land of their ancestors (or predecessors) by the aid of the Arwaccas, in the year 1596." Blaeu ("Douzienne Volume de la Geographie Blavianne," Amsterdam, 1667, p. 292) copies the words of the French text exactly, save that, perhaps in order to be more impersonal, he substitutes "the Dutch" for "our people." . . . Martiniere, in his "Grand Dictionnaire Geographique" (T. IV, p. 138, s. v. Essequebe), varies the phrase still further. After mentioning the Moruga, he says: "The Dutch give to this last the name of Ammegore. In 1596 the Spaniards from Margarita and Caracas drove out from the land of their predecessors those who lived on the banks of this river, using for this purpose the aid of the Arwaccas." . . . After all these little successive modifications the passage, even as it stands in Martiniere, does not declare that the Spaniards drove out Dutch inhabitants of the Moruga. But, the mention of the Dutch once introduced, it is easy to see how an inaccurate writer might confuse them with the [French word] "predecesseurs," might, for instance, in the extract just given take "Dutch" to be the grammatical antecedent of "those," and so might suppose the sense to be that the Spaniards drove out "those Dutchmen who lived on the banks of" the Moruga. Evidently this is just what Hartsinck did. Thus the evidence of occupation in 1596 disappears.

The British "Blue Book," on page 4, says that "Ibarguen in 1597 visited San Thome; he also visited the Essequibo and reported 'white men,' who can be shown to have been the Dutch, to be settled high up that river." For this, a vague reference to the letters of the province of Cumana in the archives of the Indies during a period of one hundred and thirteen years is given, but no text.

The notion that the Dutch had settlements in the Essequibo at this time is plainly refuted by the narrative of A. Cabeliau, already described. Not only does it seem certain that if there had been Dutch settlements in that river he would have known of and visited them, but he distinctly declares, in his report to the States-General (De Jonge, Vol. I, p. 160), that in his voyage along this coast he and his companions had discovered, found, and visited more than twenty-four rivers, many islands in the rivers, and other various harbors, "which have not been known or visited by our nation, and, what is more, have not been described or discovered in any charts or cosmographies before the time of our voyage." . . . Moreover, the conscientious De Jonge found no evidence in the Dutch archives of settlement prior to the seventeenth century.

As to the Dutch settlements made in the first half of that century, much confusion has been introduced into the subject by Hartsinck, who on page 207 of his "Beschrijvinge van Guiana" describes Nova Zelandia and Fort ter Hooge as situated on the Essequibo and identifies the latter with Kykoveral, at the juncture of the Cayuni and the Mazaruni, while on page 259 he describes Nieuw Zeeland, Nieuw Middleburg, and the Huis ter Hooge as situated on the Pomeroon. But Hartsinck is not a first-hand authority for the period before 1648, nor are, apparently, his sources. It is best to go back first to such authorities as seem incontestable, and, moreover, first to consider the facts respecting the Essequibo.

There can be no doubt that the Dutch West India Company had an establishment on the Essequibo in 1626. A resolution of the Zeeland Chamber of the Company, of December 10 in that year, permits Jacob Canyn to retire from his position at Isekepe, while another, of August 23, 1627, shows Jan van der Goes as an agent of theirs in that region. (Netscher, p. 61.)

Earlier dates have been suggested, but on less solid grounds. In the years 1750 and 1751 the Zeeland Chamber of the Dutch West India Company had a controversy with the other members, claiming the colony on the Essequibo as exclusively theirs. In a memorial of the States of Zeeland and the Zeeland Chamber to the States-General, in 1750 (printed in Jacobus Kok's "Vaderlandsch Woordenboek," 1785, Vol. XIV, s. v. Essequebo), those bodies say: "The States of Zeeland are always considered and called the patrons and founders of the colonies on the mainland of America, between Cape Orange and the river Orinoco, and especially of that of Essequibo, known to your Excellencies under the name of Nova Zelandia, which colony was already known and visited by the Zeeland Chamber at the time of the granting of the charter of 1621; witness the old books and registers, and among others a journal book of 1627, in continuation of that kept by Conijn in Essequibo, giving an account of his administration to the managers of Guiana in Zeeland Chamber to the States-General in 1751 ("Tegenwoordige Staat van Amerika," 1767, p. 661); Hartsinck, p. 234, makes a similar assertion, that "at the first beginning of the West India Company in 1621 the river Essequibo was noticed as a colony already established, strengthened by a fortress then called Fort ter Hooge . . . but soon after named Kykoveral." . . . But this is assertion made long after.

Nearer in point of time, but open to objection on other grounds, is the testimony of a paper among the Sloane manuscripts in the British Museum, of which portions (apparently nearly the whole) are printed in the Rev. H. V. P. Bronkhurst's "The Colony of British Guyana and its Labouring Population," London, 1883 (pp. 45-53). It appears to be of the year 1668, and is anonymous. "The sixth colony," the author says, "was undertaken by one Captain Gromweagle, a Dutchman, that had served the Spaniard in Oranoque, but understanding a company of merchants of Zealand had before undertaken a voyage to Guiana and attempted a settlement there" (this no doubt refers to a preceding paragraph, which notes an abortive settlement of Zeelanders at Cayenne in 1615), "he deserted the Spanish service, and tendered himself to his own country, which was accepted, and he dispatched from Zealand, anno 1616, with two ships and a galliot, and was the first man that took firm footing on Guiana by the good likeing of the natives, whose humours the gentleman perfectly understood. He erected a forte on a small island thirty leagues up the river Dissekeeb, which looked into two great branches of the famous river. All his time the Colony flourished; . . . he was a great friend of all new colonies of Christians of what nation soever, and Barbados oweth its first assistance, both for food and trade, to this man's special kindness, anno 1627, at which time they were in a miserable condition; he dyed anno 1664, and in the 83d year of his age, a wealthy man, having been Governor of that Colonie forty-eight years. In this Colonie the authour had the good fortune to meet with some ingenious observations of the former Governor, of what had been transacted in Guiana in his time, to whom the world is obliged for many particulars of this story." A footnote relates how Capt. Thomas Powell, governor of Barbados from 1625 to 1628, "having understood the Dutch had a plantation in the River Dissekeeb," sent to his old friend Captain Gromweagle for aid, and how Gromweagle "persuaded a family of Arawacoes, consisting of forty persons, to attend Powell to Barbados, to learn the English to plant," etc. (Bronkhurst, pp. 46-48.)

The author of this paper can be proved to have been Maj, John Scott, somewhat famous in the history of Long Island and of New Netherland down to 1665. For he says (id., p. 50): "The same year [1665] in the month of October, the author having been commisionated Commander-in-chief of a small fleet and a regiment of soldiers, for the attack of Tobago, and several other settlements in the hands of the Netherlanders in Guiana, as Moroco, Wacopou, Bowroome, and Dissekeeb, and having touched at Tobago, in less than six months had the good fortune to be in possession of those countries." Now by reference to the "Calendars of State Papers, Colonial" (Vol. V. pp. 481, 529, 534), it will be seen, both by Scott's testimony and by that of another, that he was commander of this expedition. John Scott (see the Proceedings of the Massachusetts Historical Society, Vol. VI, pp. 66-74) has not the highest reputation. Lord Willoughby writes to Secretary Williamson ("Calendars," p. 540) that Scott has perchance told Williamson some truth, but not all gospel. Netscher, to whom the document is anonymous, declares the while Aert Ariaenszoon Groenewegel (Scott's "Captain Gromweagle") was commandant on the Essequibo from 1657 to 1666, he certainly did not command there for forty-eight years. He also says, with justice, that the paper is inaccurate in other parts ("Geschiedenis," pp. 42, 43, 358). Yet it seems difficult altogether to discredit it. The Zeeland expedition of 1615 is historical. (British "Blue Book," p. 53, No. 8.) The passage regarding Barbados receives independent confirmation from a contemporary source, "The True Travels, Adventures and Observations of Captain John Smith," London, 1630, in chapter 26 of which we read concerning Barbados: "The first planters brought thither by Captaine Henry Powel, were forty English, with seven or eight Negroes; then he went to Disacuba in the maine, where he got thirty Indians, men, women, and children, of the Arawacos."

The indications given by Netscher and, in the last century, by the Zeelanders as to what is or was in the Dutch archives, coupled with the statements of Scott and Smith, are at any rate sufficient to show that by 1627 the Dutch had an establishment, probably Kykoveral, on the Essequibo, though De Laet makes no mention of any in his editions of 1625, 1630, or 1633.

The Zeeland memorial of 1750, already cited, sets forth (Kok. Vol. XIV, p. 405) that when, in 1632, the majority of the Nineteen of the West India Company wished to abandon the Essequibo colony, the Zeeland Chamber protested, resolved to continue it, and took the necessary measures. Reference is made to the records of their meetings of April 8, June 17 and 24, 1632, February 13 and June 29, 1634. In the latter year David Pieterszoon de Vries was, in the early days of November, at the mouth of the "Timmerarie" (Demerara). While he was lying there he was visited by Jan van der Goes, who came over in a canoe from the "Isekebie" (Essequibo), where he was chief commander for the West India Company. . . (De Vries, "Korte Historiael," 1655, p. 135). This Jan van der Goes has been mentioned above, and is named by Netscher as commander on the Essequibo at this time. The Zeeland memorial of 1750 says that his actions and his plans for the development of trade and the discovery of silver mines may be seen by examining the records of the Zeeland Chamber for April 20, May 21, 1637, February 21, April 18, 1638, April 12, June 23, and October 18, 1640, but does not quote these passages.

As to the existence of the colony on the Essequibo from 1640 to 1648, the printed sources which I have examined offer no more than a probability of its continuance. Nor, unless Scott be trusted, has any evidence presented itself which would show where on the Essequibo was situated the Dutch colony -- save evidence a century later.

Nor have I, if one document be set aside, seen any evidence that the Dutch before 1648 occupied any post or posts west of the Essequibo. The documents, of date 1613 and 1614, given in the British "Blue Book" (p. 52), show only that the Dutch were reported to have three or four settlements somewhere between the Amazon or Wiapoco and the Orinoco. Hartsinck, indeed (p. 259), speaks of Nieuw Zeeland, Nieuw Middleburg and the Huis ter Hooge as situated on the Pomaroon, and as destroyed by the English in 1666. But he does not say that they were founded before 1648, and Scott, who conquered them in 1666, says distinctly that the colony "in the rivers Borowma, Wacopou, and Moroca" was settled by Zeelanders "from Tobago, anno 1650" (in Bronkhurst, p. 48). It is true that the name of New Zeeland appears earlier, according to the Zeeland Chamber, but it appears chiefly associated with the Essequibo, and as the name of a region or district rather than of a town, as is plain from a passage in this same Zeeland memorial, which also explains the origin of Nieuw Middleburg. (Kok, Vol. XIV, p. 409.) From what has been said, the memorialists declare, it will appear what pains the Zeelanders have expended on their fosterling, Nieuw Zeeland, and had it not been for the English war it would certainly have "become one of the most flourish colonies in America, for one Cornlis Goliath had, in the year 1658, made and brought over a new map of the district and formed a plan to build a town, Nieuw Middleburg, there; but New Zeeland could not obtain that fortune, but by the sword of the enemy" became desolated . . . etc." At a later time Nieuw Zeeland was, I understand, the name of a town near the Pomeroon. As for "ter Hooge," the Zeeland petition of 1751, which Hartsinck quotes (p. 234), may be right in saying that in 1621 there was a Fort der Hooge on the Essequibo, and Hartsinck himself may also be right in saying (p. 259) that in 1666 there was a Huis ter Hooge on the Pomerun.

In the British "Blue Book" (p. 56) a document is given, dated 1637, which gives information of the sacking and burning of Santo Thome by a Dutch force from "Amacuro Esquibo, and Bervis." I can only remark that, in the absence on the Spanish text, its meaning is uncertain, because in that period the names Amacura and Moruga were sometimes confounded. Thus in the French edition of De Laet ("Nouveau Monde," 1640) we read, on page 590, "Moruga," . . . and on page 602 "Amagore" . . . i.e., in the one case "Moruga, which our people call Ammegore," and in the other "Ammegore, which I suspect to be that which Keymis calls Amaeur." Both localities are within the disputed territory.


Hartsinck says, but without giving a date, that the Dutch formerly . . . had a post on this river (p. 257). The only evidence on the matter, with respect to the period before 1648, which I have anywhere found consists of the two following bits:

Fray Pedro Simon ("Noticias Historiales," p. 664) says that in 1619, or soon after Geronimo de Grados went into the river Baruma, which is the first in those provinces where the Arwaccas inhabit (probably therefore the Barima), and compelled the natives to yield submission and to give him provisions. This is unfavorable to the notion of a Dutch occupation or post, as far as it goes.

Father Pelleprat ("Relation des Missions," pt. 2, p. 112) says that the savages of the river Barima told him that they had already built a fort, in which the French might be lodged as soon as they had arrived. . . This was some time between 1652 and 1655, and the same remark may be made with regard to it.

It should be added that the maps which I have seen in no case indicate any towns or posts in this region prior to 1648 within the disputed boundaries.

The results of the investigation may be briefly summed up as follows: I find no evidence of any Spanish occupation of the disputed territory in 1648, nor of any but temporary occupation of any portion of it before that time. I find no certain evidence of any Dutch occupation in 1648 northward or westward of the Essequibo and Kykoveral, unless one thinks it proper to rely on the translation of Document No. 12 (with inclosure) in the British "Blue Book," page 26. I find no evidence of occupation of Point Barima before 1648.

Respectfully submitted.

J. Franklin Jameson June 11, 1896.

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